Society for Conservation of Nature



Campa monitoring Ooty September, 2016 025

Checkdam built during 1984 at Thalakundah under HADP-photo taken in 2016 with the Author standing on the dam

It all happened sometime during 1983 while I was working as the Forest Range Officer (FRO) of the Udhagai North Range. There was a proposal for preparing a project report for Hill Area Development Programme (HADP) combining all the departments in the Nilgiris district. So, it was planned to visit all the respective areas along with the map prepared by the Agriculture Department. The Agriculture Department was entrusted with the job of preparing the project report with the support of all the other departments. The Heads of all the Departments were requested to attend the inspection on a particular day by the District Collector. Accordingly, Officers from the concerned departments like Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering, Horticulture, Forest, Animal Husbandry, Chinchona, Health, Education, Highways, PWD, Panchayat, Tribal Development, Tourism, etc., assembled at the Collector’s office. I was deputed to attend the inspection on behalf of the District Forest Officer (DFO) of Nilgiris North Division. Around 10 am on that particular day, along with the Project Officer (DRDA), the team consists of the officers from various departments started moving for inspection. The jeeps carrying the team members moved along Snowdon road and reached a place called Thuneri, a village located on the northern side at the downhill of Snowdon Reserved Forest (RF), a hillock just above Raj Bhavan in Udhagamandalam.

The vehicles were stopped and all officers joined for discussion. Every department official was requested to discuss the possible aspects of developing the concerned area under HADP, so that whatever they propose, it may find place in the proposal for getting sanction from the Government of India (GOI). One after one it was discussed and after consultation with other departments, without any overlapping, the salient points were noted down for incorporating the same in the proposal. When the turn for the Forest Department came, I pointed out the lapse noticed in the map, as it was prepared without including the hill slope of the Snowdon RF, which forms the main watershed for that particular area. Because, the Agriculture department had prepared the map for   carrying out the activities by all other departments in about five villages located there at the foothill. Knowingly or unknowingly they had failed to include the hill slope which acts as the major catchment. Only if the watershed is treated properly, water security of the region can be ensured.  As far as the Nilgiris is concerned, the shola forests act as the overhead water tanks of the district. Surprisingly the northern slope of the Snowdon RF facing Thuneri village with degraded shola patches was the origin of a few jungle streams. Through proper soil and water conservation measures and revival of the existing degraded shola forests only, the forest ecosystem can be developed enabling us to harvest the services. After understanding the soundness of my argument, the PO (DRDA), the DD, Agriculture department and other officials agreed with me. So, as such whatever activities I proposed, they were noted down and it was decided to finalise after discussing with the Collector.

The inspection went on till evening and the team returned to the Collector’s Office, Udhagamandalam around 4 pm. Fortunately the Collector was available at that time. As everyone started taking leave, I too wanted to say goodbye. But the PO (DRDA) wanted me to accompany him while meeting the Collector. Though I was a little hesitant, he compelled me. PO, DD and AD, Agriculture department and I were present for the discussion. The Collector was eager to know the progress made that day. After discussing the various activities proposed by other departments, the PO mentioned about the lapse occurred in the treatment map prepared as pointed out by me. At that particular point, as the PO sought my help, I intervened and represented the major role played by the watershed in hilly regions like Nilgiris and the non-inclusion of the same in the map prepared. I also stressed the need for the treatment of the northern slope of the Snowdon RF which acts as the major catchment for ensuring the water security. At that time the Collector was one Mr. Gupta. He agreed with my argument and instructed the officers of the Agriculture department to revise the map including the watershed for the entire district and take my help while preparing the treatment map. Once the discussions were over, the Collector asked my name and other details while taking tea in his chamber. I told my name and other details and expressed my helplessness while he was a bit unhappy with me for attending the meeting on behalf of the DFO, Nilgiris North division a few days ago. The incidence took place only a few days back. On that day as Headquarters Forest Range Officer (FRO), on behalf of the DFO, I was deputed to attend a meeting with the Collector. When I stood up to answer the query related to the Forest department, the Collector did not like anybody else to answer except the DFO and as a result I quit the meeting. I recollected the unhappy situation. After listening to my polite representation, the Collector said ‘Sorry’. Subsequently it became routine to meet the PO and the Collector for all discussions pertaining to HADP. Since the Forest Department plays a crucial role in Nilgiris district, due importance was given in subsequent events. Late Sri.H.Rajagopal Shetty.IFS, the then Conservator of Forests, known for his sincerity and vast knowledge added many valuable inputs to HADP and he was taken to Delhi for a few meetings in connection with HADP. Of course, we were able to carry out many useful works like development of the degraded forests, protection of forests, consolidation of RFs, soil and moisture conservation, etc., and the standard works carried out under HADP stand testimony to my sincerity even after a long period of about 32 years.  One will be surprised to see the intact checkdam built during 1984 with water stored at Thalakundah and the cairns constructed opposite to the Hindustan Photo Films (HPF) around the Muthinadu RF after more than three decades.