A city-based environment group, Waatavaran Foundation, has launched a digital campaign to support co-existence of tribal communities within forest areas of cities. Called ‘Adivasis for Forests’, the initiative has been launched in association with the Raigad district administration and technical and financial support from US-based Cadasta Foundation, Consulate General of Canada in Mumbai and Vikas Sahyog Pratishthan.
Waatavaran Foundation has taken up the responsibility of effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and has the mission to undo the historical injustice on tribal communities and ensure their upliftment.
Aditi Tatkare, the state minister and guardian minister of Raigad said that the larger goal is management and conservation of forests by reversing the migration of tribals in Raigad.
Tatkare launched the campaign in the presence of Michael Vonk, who is the Political, Economic and Public Affairs Officer at the Consulate General of Canada in Mumbai. Also present were Mohan Surve, the CEO of Vikas Sahyog Pratishthan, Amy Coughenour Betancourt, the CEO of Cadasta Foundation and Bhagwan Kesbhat, the founder and CEO of Waatavaran Foundation.
During his address at the launch event, Kesbhat said that traditional knowledge of tribal communities is necessary for conserving and protecting forests and biodiversity across the globe.
Commending Waatavaran’s efforts, Tatkare said tribal communities have been left out of the mainstream for a very long time. “The lack of educated people in this community has resulted in serious problems like migration and malnutrition. This initiative would prove beneficial for those deprived of education, social and economic development,” Tatkare said, adding that now that we have realised the importance of forests, it is time to empower the true guardians of the forest. “This will help to decelerate climate change and gives us a chance to re-establish a balance between nature and mankind,” the minister added.
Bringing the attention of the attendees to a million natural species becoming extinct due to climate change and loss of natural habitats in the few years, Keshbat said forests play a huge role in alleviating the impact of global warming. “It is essential to not only preserve the existing green cover but also to increase it as much as possible. This, however, will not be possible without the active involvement and support of the indigenous communities,” he said.
Keshbat said financial support through government schemes towards afforestation practices will boost the livelihoods of communities.
Betancourt from Cadasta said as the Forests Rights Act is implemented across various blocks, it will empower communities, boost their livelihoods and improve conservation efforts. “In addition, the geospatial technology and digital tools will allow local authorities to make data-based decisions,” she said.