Agarzari village, Tadoba, Maharashtra: Sindhutai Aatram is relieved she no longer has to suffer the constant smoke and coughing from the firewood stove she used at home till two years ago. Her neighbour, Indira Tekaam shares the same emotion as her daily trips to the forest to gather firewood for cooking have stopped.
Both live in Agarzari village in the buffer zone of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, where the forest department launched a scheme to provide cooking gas (LPG) cylinders. The effort is aimed at reducing the dependence of villagers on the forests and thus avoiding a conflict with wild animals.
"There are 79 villages in the buffer zone. Through schemes like these, we hope to discourage villagers from going into the jungle to fetch firewood, where they would often come face to face with wild animals," says Sachin Shinde, Range Forest Officer.
In one year, 44 families have benefitted from the scheme - a healthier option of cooking - where the forest department bears 75 percent of the cost per cylinder while the beneficiary pays the remaining 25 percent. A similar scheme has also been rolled out in other villages like Adgaon and Devada.
Villages in the buffer zones have witnessed the man-animal conflict closely. Efforts are on to ensure there is no animosity towards wild animals which is why a more participatory process of wildlife conservation is in progress. It has been left to the villagers to decide how they want to participate. Some villages have already got an electric fence installed around them in order to keep wild animals at bay.
The focus is also on expanding the present scheme to building sanitation facilities and cattle sheds to prevent man-animal conflict.