Vikash Ujjwal grew up in a small district in Jharkhand. After completing his degree in Electronic Engineering, he opted for the national level exams. He was always keen on working for the betterment of people but had a particular interest in wildlife and conservation.
“I wanted to give back to society through my work.”
Vikas was posted as a Divisional Forest officer, Lohardaga. In March 2017, he was shocked to see hundreds of poor villagers carrying illegal firewood through the degraded forest area.
“When I questioned them, they said that they didn’t have any other means to earn a living, so they sell timber in local markets to make ends meet.”
Vikas immediately realised that there were two key issues he needed to address: controlling the illicit felling of trees and providing the locals with a sustainable livelihood.
“But first, I needed to gain their trust. So, I spoke to them about the grave danger of deforestation.”
Vikas realised that the best solution was promoting eco-tourism in the region. Vikas and his team also came up with the idea to avoid forest fires.
“I asked them to remove the dry leaves from the forest floor, which would otherwise augment forest fires. A briquetting plant was set up which converted dry leaves into artificial fuelwood. A mechanism was developed to pay them for every kilo of dry leaves they brought, giving them a source of employment also. But the locals initially disregarded my appeals by saying that this is how they have lived for a long time; why change anything? But I wasn’t discouraged.”
And soon, people started to see the light and came on board. They managed everything, right from collecting parking fees to setting up dhabas which boosted eco-tourism.
“Eventually, tourism became the main source of employment for the community. Its incentivised people to conserve the forest as the forest became essential for their livelihood.”
A degraded forest area has now changed forever; this transformation was possible by the efforts of Vikash and his team.
Mahindra salutes the challenger spirit of people like Vikash who reminds us that with grit and determination, we can change the world and help the people around us. #Rise