Green Warrior

In the late 1990s, Dhule taluka in northern Maharashtra suffered a continuous drought for a few years. When pathologist Dhananjay Newadkar saw more than 250 borewells and several natural wells in the taluka going dry, he decided to do something to tackle the situation, especially in his village, Lamkani. From 2001, Newadkar began employing methods like watershed management and continuous contour trenching (CCT) to save the area’s natural resources. “The idea was to save the forest land in the surrounding mountainous regions, so that the grass could hold rainwater,” he explains. Seven years on, the doctor’s determined efforts have resulted in Lamkani becoming rich in water resources and abundant natural vegetation. For his efforts, Newadkar was honoured with the prestigious Jeevan Puraskar.Newadkar’s awakening came early in 2000 after he survived a near-fatal accident. “It was like I was being given a second chance to live. This inspired me to concentrate on the problems faced by my village,” Newadkar says. The doctor started with an antigrazing awareness movement in his village of 8,000 residents. “The natural forest belt had to be protected. That’s why we had to chase the forest department for necessary support.” With permission from the forest department, work started on protecting 50 hectares of forest land on the mountains surrounding Lamkani. He was also promised help from the Employment Guarantee Scheme by the forest department.Initially funds were hard to come by. It was also difficult to assemble manpower. “In the beginning, Lamkani residents were not ready to help. I hired 20 labourers from nearby Shevade village in order to dig contour trenches.” After a while, however, help poured in. The doctor received technical support from the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) as his businessmen friends in the village also pitched in.Over the years, Newadkar’s gumption has shown results. With grazing stopped, the natural vegetation in the village has remained intact, leading to a significant rise in the ground water levels. In 2002, the village was registered with the Joint Forest Management Committee and it now avails forest produce as free fodder. “In fact, this July, when the state was desperately short of fodder, Lamkani distributed 400 to 500 tonnes of fodder worth Rs 6 lakh of forest produce to 25 neighbouring villages free of cost,” says Newardkar.Every year, he ropes in schoolchildren under the National Green Corps (NGC) to sow the seeds of neem, babul, bor and hivar trees on the mountainous slopes. “Since 2001, we have managed to protect 320 hectares of forest land on the mountainous ridge from the evils of grazing. We hope to reach the 350-hectare mark by next year.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Newadkar's efforts and movement of ecological restoration of Lam kani has finally been recognised. Lamkani village was awarded first prize (shared) by Maharashtra Government under Sant Tukaram Vangram Yojana for the year 2009 and felicited in Mumbai on Aug 21, 2009.
-S. K. Gawali