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Women in green put out forest fires in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur district

Bilaspur is the first forest division in the state to take up the initiative

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They work alongside forest workers to provide free service in the climate battle

R Krishna Das Raipur

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Ramshila Bai Sorthe has received just primary education but her passion to protect the forests is no less than that of high-profile and highly educated environment activists. Clad in a green saree, she, along with five other members of the Jai Maa Sharda Women’s Self-help Group in Bilaspur district, has taken up the challenging task of controlling forest fires in her vicinity.

“Now we will extinguish forest fires...” is the slogan of the group, active in Dhoramuda and Limha forest villages in the Beltara forest circle.

“The women understand the significance of forests because they are actively involved with those and have come forward to save them,” Divisional Forest Officer Kumar Nishant said. They are providing free service, working alongside forest workers in battling wildfires — a global challenge as old as the forests, he added. Fires start normally in mid-February and the forest department has been conducting an awareness campaign to save the forests. The other members in the group are Anarkali Ayam, Sonam Bai, Sat Kumari Maravi, Uma Mahant and Janki Bai.  

“Signifying the maxim ‘forest is life’, we understand that the forests are precious heritage for us because the herbs, fruits, and flowers (from the forests) provide us extra income,” Ramshila Bai said. Besides, they are getting fodder from the forests.

Bilaspur is the first forest division in Chhattisgarh that has taken up the initiative. “The enthusiasm and awareness among women motivated the department to train them how to extinguish forest fires,” Nishant said. The forest department, as a symbol of greenery, has provided them green sarees as uniform, and trained them to use fire blower machines.

A “fire line”, also known as fire break, is the practice of burning a strip of vegetation and clearing the land so that if there’s a fire the flames do not spread from one compartment to another. With the Jai Maa Sharda Group as a role model, Nishant said the department was working on a plan to expand the initiative to other forest circles and villages.

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First Published: Apr 24 2023 | 10:51 PM IST

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