Grappling For Greener Ground

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JanPratinidhi
JanPratinidhi

Grappling For Greener Ground


Articles / Environment   /   Oct 21, 2014
karuna Gupta
karuna Gupta
She is a writer. She has done post-graduation in Political Science from Delhi University. She likes writing news stories, blogs and articles. She also likes to analyze political and international events and write stories on them. She wishes to bring a change to the lives of women by attracting the attention of leaders as well as society at large through her articles. Truth is what she stands for.

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All of us have read umpteen articles, news items and books on how important forests are for all of us. Our planet needs as much greenery as we can possibly save and in fact more and more green spaces need to be created for saving the environment and the earth. It is unfortunate that most of us just forget about the issue as soon as we get busy with our everyday work thinking that it is for others to do something about.

However there are a few amazingly responsible albeit rare individuals who consider it to be their duty and at the same time get immense pleasure from protecting and safeguarding the green spaces around them even at the cost of facing difficulties in their own life. One such praiseworthy person is Christine Margaret Chowfin, a 68 years old lady in Uttarakhand who recently after a lot of effort got more than half of her 756 hectare estate on Pauri hills declared as forest so that no developmental work can take place on it, thereby protecting the land from ruthless felling of trees and denudation.

Ms Chowfin took this decision despite the fact that, after her estate was declared forest land, she would lose the right to sell the property or use it for any non forest purposes.

The estate owned by Ms Chowfin known as Gadoli and Manda Khal is covered by lush, thick deciduous forest cover of oak, pine, chir, spruce, ash and deodar trees. It has eight freshwater springs. 78 species of different varieties of flowering plants, birds and mammals are to be found here. The forest also has four to five leopards inhabiting it. A ‘micro-water shed for Nayyar river of Uttarakhand’,this rich forest land of Ms Chowfin is a valuable source of timber and charcoal for the local residents and the forest department also earns a lot from it.

The land originally belonged to Ms Chowfin’s great-grandfather-in-law who had acquired it from a representative of the British East India Company when there was British rule in India. The land had beautiful green tea gardens in the 1900s and some tea plants can still be seen in the estate.

Chowfin’s battle for the land to be protected as a forest began in 1990s and her efforts intensified further after her husband Trevor Harry Chowfin’s death in 2009. Ms Chowfin has also stated that she fell in love with the land as soon as she saw it after she came to the area after her marriage. She is being supported by her son 37 year old Subir Chowfin, who is a wild life researcher, in her ongoing fight for her estate to be totally declared a forest.

However, though 450 hectares of the estate has been declared as forest, Ms Chowfin’s grappling for greener ground does not end here. She is determined to get the government to declare the remaining 315 hectares of land as forest too. After her victory following a 10 years long arduous battle with a number of agencies, the courageous lady remains undaunted and undeterred in her resolve to take her struggle forward and follow it up till the very end, crowning it with a victory.

The land had earlier been incorrectly projected as agricultural land despite being a forest estate in district revenue records. Chowfin says that several agencies with vested interests had been describing the estate as agricultural land and were “misleading courts through false affidavits.”

As reported by Mail Today Chowfin goes on to say, “Besides, all laws were flouted as many structures were allowed to come up in the forest illegally.” The forest laws have been blatantly violated in this forest territory. Several illegal encroachments have come up in the area without seeking the required clearance from relevant Government authorities. Several buildings, resorts and illegal settlements have been built without requisite permits. ‘Stone quarries, hot-mix plants, structures like a by-pass, a juvenile jail and a gas depot, and agricultural and horticultural activities pose threat to the survival of the forest land.’

“Despite repeated death threats, I have made the estate a forest for humanity so that it cannot be touched by anyone, forever. I have secured this forest from rogues who want to plunder it. By declaring it as agricultural land, they had plans to sell it off and allow every kind of non-forest activity,” said Chowfin.

Ms Chowfin and her son have spent precious time from their own lives rushing to and fro between Pauri, Dehradun and Delhi taking up the case in the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT). Fighting for the cause they believe in, this mother son duo have been successful in achieving a great victory, not for themselves but for the people, for the wild life in the forests, the thick forest cover much needed to be protected all over the world, and for the environment, setting an example for each one of us.

Taking inspiration from them, we can at least determine to take out some time from our lives no matter how busy our schedules may be, to do our bit for the environment and our Mother Earth. If we give back even a fraction of what we have got from our beautiful planet earth, we can undoubtedly create a better future for ourselves and our generations to come.

Source: ‘Green warrior wins war to save forest land’-Akash Vashishtha (India Today, New Delhi, October 14, 2014)

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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