Sanjay Srivastava, PCCF, Social Forestry Government of UP, tells TreeTake about his stint in the forest service, challenges before a forester, the relevance of social forestry, and much more ...
Q: You have over 25 years of experience as a forest officer, what positives and negatives have you seen over the period?
I am an Indian Forest officer of the 1989 batch and have completed 34 years of service. Forest service is wonderful which allows us to work with nature and wildlife and provides an opportunity to serve Mother Earth and secure a healthy life in the future. During the coronavirus period, we all realized the importance of clean and pollution-free nature around us for a healthy life. The service offered many positives, giving ultimate satisfaction. We support the cause of living things such as flora and fauna on earth which are living things growing and multiplying like us but cannot speak and express themselves. We are the only department that is the custodian of the largest land resources on earth and faces great challenges in protecting open green treasures along with natural resources beneath the earth. We get a chance to work with society to involve them in the noble cause of protecting the environment which is an urgent need for a better and safe future. We work to conserve water resources by managing wetlands and carrying out soil and moisture conservation. We are responsible for developing new and improved clones of agro-forestry species to offer early and higher returns to farmers growing trees on their farmland. Apart from protecting and conserving forests and wildlife, we are also providing ecotourism experience to nature tourists and thus creating awareness along with enjoyment. There are some negative areas which have to be handled by foresters with care. The Forest Conservation Act prohibits the use of Forest land for any developmental work involving non-forestry activity without prior permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This role of foresters paints our service as a ‘hurdle department’ in the developmental programmes but we help the concerned department in processing the online application on the Parivesh Portal as per the Forest Conservation Act. Wild animals like tigers, leopards, elephants, wild boars, etc. intrude on human habitations and pose a threat to the life and property of villagers making the situation very delicate and challenging at times. Dealing intelligently and effectively with such man-animal conflicts is very important to improve the image of the forest department. Forests are an open treasure that attracts criminals involved in the trade of timber and wildlife who are well-equipped with the latest arms and advanced technological equipment. Dealing with such forest mafias has been very challenging and sometimes foresters have to lay down lives while performing the task of protecting forests and wildlife.
Q: You now head the social forestry department. What is the significance/ relevance of social forestry today?
Social forestry is the afforestation of barren, fallow, and other land outside forests to help environmental, social, and rural development. The term social forestry was first used in 1976 by The National Commission on Agriculture when the Government of India aimed to reduce pressure on forests by planting trees on all unused and fallow lands. It was intended as a democratic approach to forest conservation and usage, maximizing land utilization for multiple purposes. India, at the 26th session of the Conference Of Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in (UNFCCC) held in Glasgow, United Kingdom, expressed to intensify its climate action by presenting to the world, 5 nectar elements (Panchamrit) of India’s climate. The Republic of India is committed to the creation of an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest cover and tree cover. Uttar Pradesh is a state in northern India that covers an area of 243,286 square kilometres. It has a population of approximately 240 million people, making it the most populous state in India. According to, the Indian State of Forest Report 2021, released by Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, the forest cover of UP is 14818 sq km which is 6.15% of the geographical area and the tree cover outside the forest is 7421 sq km which is 3.08% of geographical area. The forest land is limited and in order to increase the green cover of the state, tree cover outside has to be increased. Social forestry is the only solution for increasing the green cover and thus contributing to the target of the creation of additional carbon sinks as committed in COP 26. Uttar Pradesh has estimated the proportional target of an additional carbon sink of 72 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent through additional forest cover and tree cover. To achieve the target of an additional carbon sink of 72 million tonnes, the plantation of 175 crores saplings is to be carried out in Uttar Pradesh in the next five years from 2022.
Q: What are the challenges of social forestry and ways to address them?
Social forestry aims to achieve afforestation of barren, fallow, and other land outside forests. Involving various strata of society in the creation of plantations along with management and conservation and thereafter motivating the public to participate in massive plantation drives is really a great challenge. In UP, we are adopting the following ways to address it:
1 Involving various departments in the plantation programme by allotting targets by the chief secretary of UP well in advance.
2 Public representatives like ministers, MPs, MLAs, mayor/chairman of urban local bodies, all ward members, Zila Panchayat Adhyaksh, block panchayats, gram pradhans, gram panchayat members, etc. are also motivated to lead the plantation drive in various district thus making it a massive public programme. Government departments and institutions, NGOs, civil society, NCC, NSS, Nehru Yuva Kendra, Yuvak Mangal Dal, Mahila Mangal Dal, Rotary/Lions Club, Eco club, Vyapar mandals, FPOs, etc. are also involved.
3 Mass awareness campaigns during Van Mahotsav were organized in various districts of the state by means of rallies, ‘paudho ki barat’, prabhat pheri, seminars, nukkad-natak, painting/essay/debate competitions, etc. on topics like the importance of environmental conservation, tree cover, plantation, water conservation, rain-water harvesting, and cleanliness, etc.
4 Thematic afforestation was planned to involve people in the massive plantation drive. The public was motivated to create Nandan Van, Shakti Van, Ayush Van, food forest, etc
5 Use of information technology in monitoring all the short-term and long-term goals. Various tools of information technology such as apps and portals were used in monitoring the plantation activities for the smooth implementation of social forestry
Q: Do you think our approach towards man-animal conflict needs modification?
Man-animal conflict is a major challenge in the state because UP is densely populated, and the chances of interaction between animals and the people residing in villages around protected areas are very high. The conservation effort by the forest department has resulted in an increase in the population of wild animals on the one side and increased the possibility of man-animal conflict on the other. To address this challenge, various short-term and long-term strategies should be followed. The short-term approach can address the conflict situation by rescuing the conflicting wild animal, supporting the family of the deceased or injured person, creating awareness regarding precautions to be followed for evading the conflict situation, coordinating public announcements about information regarding movement and risk by a wild animal, organizing effective patrolling by armed forest personnel, etc. Certain long-term strategies such as assessing the carrying capacity of the area and if required coordinating translocation of excess population following rules and guidelines, motivating the villagers around Protected Areas to change the cropping pattern so as to create breakup in the continuity of alike habitat between forest and sugar cane crop habitat, creating advanced facilities for monitoring, tranquilizing and effective rescue operation, etc. can also help.
Q: How do you think eco-tourism is likely to benefit wilderness and biodiversity?
According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. We take ecotourism as a novel approach for the tourism industry that involves traveling to natural locations without disturbing the ecosystem integrity and creating opportunities for economic benefits and well-being of the local communities. Ecotourism is an important activity that can be utilized to create awareness about the conservation of biodiversity along with experiencing the wilderness of an area without disturbing wildlife. It provides opportunities for active socio-economic involvement of the local population. Local communities can be involved in various activities related to eco-tourism like nature guiding, hospitality services, catering services, safari operation, creation of interpretation material, developing souvenir shop material, etc. Ecotourism promotes local culture and traditions by creating awareness about the natural and cultural assets of the area. In order to minimize the negative impact, we need to promote sustainable eco-tourism. The ecological carrying capacity and ecological balance should be preserved and environmentally friendly transport alternatives should be promoted.
Q: Can you share some interesting experiences you have had as IFS with our readers?
I have been actively involved in the conceptualization, design, development, and establishment of the Etawah Safari Park in Etawah – one of the largest and modern facilities in the country. Built-in the exceedingly challenging landscape in the ravines close to Etawah, it is a modern facility with large safari-type enclosures and is equipped with the latest facilities. I was posted as director of Etawah Safari Park in August 2105, wherein the establishment of the Asiatic Lion Breeding Centre was a challenging task. The breeding of the Astatic Lion, found naturally only in Gir National Park, Junagarh, Gujarat in the whole world, was coordinated by me successfully in Etawah Safari Park in October 2106. After the initial failure in the breeding plan for Asiatic lions, the officers and staff had a great challenge to move ahead with new zeal and confidence. Taking the help of various standards and protocols in place for the management of various zoos and with the help of expert veterinarians of Lucknow Zoo, Kanpur Zoo, Sakkarbagh Zoo, Junagarh, Gujarat, IVRI Bareilly, and other experts a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was developed and strictly implemented. A team of experts, from IVRI Bareilly, was invited to carry out complete examinations of lions of the Centre and provide the necessary guidance, regarding the management and veterinary care of animals. An international expert veterinarian Dr Nobert Nowotny from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria was invited in September 2015, to examine the breeding population and suggest necessary measures. In October 2015, a team of officers and experts was sent to Smithsonian Zoo, New York, and San Diego Zoo Global, USA, to acquire international exposure and gain experience in zoo management and studying the facilities and practices at the lion and other animal breeding centres. Dr Barbara Durrent, director, Reproductive Physiology, and Andrew Blue, head of animal welfare, were invited in November 2015 to examine the breeding facilities developed at the centre and impart training to keepers involved in the breeding programme. As per the advice of experts regarding carrying forward the breeding programme, a new breeding population from Sakkarbagh Zoo, Junagarh, Gujarat was planned for introduction in the breeding centre. After getting the necessary permission from CZA, New Delhi, lioness Jessica, and lion Pataudi were brought in December 2015. Dr Jonathan Cracknell, director of Animal Operations, at Longleat Safari Park, UK was requested to visit Etawah in January 2016 to assess the reproductive and veterinary health of the breeding population. As per his suggestion regarding keeping the animals behaviourally and physically fit for improved physical health and improved reproductive results, a five-day enrichment programme was organised by ‘The Shape of Enrichment’ in February 2016. Mark Kingston Jones and Chris Hales came to Etawah and demonstrated various enrichment activities for keeping animals behaviourally and physically fit. Dr Nadine Lambersky, veterinary director, San Diego Zoo Global, USA visited In March 2106 to assess the veterinary facilities developed in the centre and advised regarding the upgradation of veterinary hospitals for effective health management of animals. The suggestions and guidance given by the experts helped in improving the physical and mental health of the breeding population on the one hand and developed confidence and expertise in veterinary/ animal handling staff on the other hand. Lioness Jessica, after recovering from an initial ill health situation, was kept, along with Lion Manan. The breeding centre has a parturition chamber and see-thru partition paddock. Both the animals were released in the paddock having see-thru partition and this allowed interaction between male and female lions. During the heat period, the female exhibits rolling and growling behaviour in front of the male. They were allowed to pair and keepers were instructed to keep records of mating. The lioness showed symptoms of conceiving and was shifted to Unit 2 of the breeding centre for a secure and safe pregnancy period. During the pregnancy period, strict compliance with protocol was ensured. All preparations were done before the due date in the first week of October 2016. On October 6, lioness Jessica gave birth to two cubs and soon after birth she started licking and caressing them. The cubs reached the teats of the mother and started sucking. This was the first successful breeding of Asiatic Lions in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. The two male cubs were named as Simba and Sultan.