INDIA – The Ghorawadeshwar hill near Dehu Road on Pune-Mumbai highway has been a long-standing victim of deliberate forest fires — averaging three incidents every year. To prevent recurrence of the calamity, 200 volunteers of Swatantryaveer Savarkar Mandal have stepped into to maintain
vigil and have also started digging fire lines. Their efforts have prompted the forest department to confer the status of ‘green army’ upon them.
Dhananjay Shedbale, a member of the group’s Nisargmitra wing, said, “People who visit the hill regularly have planted thousands of native trees on it. However, the wildfires emerge during summers. Given the fact that they are deliberate, our members will take turns in keeping vigil and we have also dug forest lines.”
Volunteer Rajesh Deshmukh, who works with Indian Railways, said that a 15-member core committee is managing the tasks of scheduling the vigil and purchasing equipment for the lines. “We are hopeful that the work will be completed by January,” he said, adding, “We will cut the grass carefully so that the seeds are unhurt.”
Many volunteers have stepped in to aid with the groundwork, while several others provide equipment and finical aid. “We realised that rather than plantation, there is need of preservation of forest. This is the small attempt from these volunteers,” said Satpute.
Deputy conservator of forests (Pune division) A Srilakshmi said, “Considering the selfless work of these volunteers toward maintaining the greenery on hills, we have issued identity cards to them. They will work as
green army and keep vigil,” she said, adding that technical support to dig the fire lines has been provided, too.
“This is an ultimate example of how change can be brought when common people participate,” she said.