Published: 17th March 2021
This group in Odisha has been spreading awareness about forest fires way before Similipal started burning
These youngsters, led by 50-year-old Subhendu Bhattacharya, call themselves Wildies and have been working to spread awareness regarding forest fires since 2015. This is how they go about their work
The forest fires in Odisha's Simlipal National Park have been the talk of the town now. Known to have been contained, as declared by the Government of Odisha on March 13, much to the relief of one and all. But Wildies have been talking about forest fires since their inception in 2015. And though Subhendu Bhattacharya and his young brigade of volunteers were about to head to Similipal too to start their campaign in full swing, which was paused due to the pandemic, it was the District Forest Officer who invited them to bring their campaign to Chandaka forest reserve instead. "He told us that everyone was rushing to Similipal and they had enough help already, it is Chandaka that needed help as well," says Bhattacharya who is 50-years-old. Via social media, he inspired young working professionals to volunteer for this cause and with their power, Wildies have conducted over six campaigns in the last 15 days.
During their forest walks | (Pic: Wildies)
So what are these campaigns we keep talking about that Wildies conduct? These are informal awareness campaigns they conduct with the villagers, making them aware of the menace that are forest fires. "It's not like they don't already know what it does to their surroundings, but when we show them the bigger picture, it helps them understand the magnitude of the problem and the role they can play in reducing it," says Bhattacharya, who is the disciple of noted ornithologist of Odisha, UN Deb.
While Bhattacharya himself is a birder, the others who join him are nature lovers
How Wildies go about their campaign is they visit a village and after concluding their essential commodities distribution activity like sanitary napkins, biscuits and so on, they gather the villagers in a centralised location of the village and talk to them in great detail about forest fires. They even show videos of, say, the Australian bushfire and its aftermath. The young volunteers sit down on the floor with the villagers, talk to them in their own language and by doing this, create an atmosphere that is open. This goes on for about an hour or so.
During a session | (Pic: Wildies)
"Children constitute a very important part of this campaign because it is their future that is at stake. We explain to the villagers that their children will be the ones who will suffer the most," says Bhattacharya, who works as a Consultant for Tata Projects. Then, the youngsters and the villagers break bread together in the villagers' home and try to understand the villagers' perspective as well. Slash and burn agriculture remains one of the main causes of forest fires and though it is done in a controlled manner, it does tend to get out of control. They talk about this during their conversations.
They have about 22 core members in their team
Wildies are even known to conduct forest walks with school children and have done about 10-14 of those. Though this is on hold for now, we do look forward to the day they decide to resume it.
Why do forest fires occur?
- Summer coming and retreating autumn make forests vulnerable
- Lightning or high temperatures
- Poachers setting fire to a small area to divert animals
- Slash and burn agriculture of tribals
For more on them, check out facebook.com/groups/1937267952993553/?ref=share