Jharkhand’s ‘Jungleman’ gives Hazaribagh forest new lease of life

The ruined forest in Tatijharia-Dudhamtiya in Hazaribagh district has got a new lease of life, thanks to the resolve of a simple school teacher, Mahadev Mahato. He launched a campaign three decades ago to save the forest, which created a wave of awareness in the region. One by one, thousands of people joined his campaign. As a result of this, the area of the Dudhmatia forest, which was about 65 acres three decades ago, has now expanded to 90 acres.

In Hazaribagh, Mahadev Mahato is known as ‘Jungleman’. Mahato, 68, is a resident of Berho village of Tatijharia. In the 1990s, the Dudhmatia forest was deteriorating rapidly. Smugglers, mafia and some local people were cutting trees without any thought. In those days, wild elephants had also increased in the area. One day, a herd of elephants entered their village and crushed a villager. Many others became targets of angry elephants.

Mahadev Mahato kept thinking for many days that why did a vegetarian creature kill people? Then he reached a conclusion that we ourselves are responsible for this. They are becoming aggressive and violent due to the destruction of natural shelters. After this, Mahato held a meeting with the villagers in many nearby villages. Many people came together and it was decided that they would launch a campaign to save the forest.

Mahto told IANS that efforts were going on since 1990, but the actual campaign started on October 7, 1995. But not everything was so easy. Many people had to face opposition. Mahato travelled 70-80 km by cycle and united the villagers. Forest protection committees were formed by villagers in Berho, Tatijharia, Daharbhanga and Dudhmatia. Many people including Surendra Prasad Singh, Indu Mahto, Saryu Mahto, Basudev Singh, Dina Gop played an effective role in this campaign.

Everyone together decided that each tree would be tied with a thread of protection and they would request every person to join this campaign. Religious rituals were also organised during the tying of protection threads to the trees. A large number of people joined it. This campaign grew from village to village. A resolution was taken to celebrate the Environment Festival in the village where the trees were tied for protection. Later, the Forest Department also took part in this campaign. A huge environmental fair is now held every year on October 7 at Dudhmatia, the centrepiece of the campaign.

In this, 10,000-15,000 people participate and collectively take a pledge to protect them by tying red thread on the trees. Taking inspiration from the Rakshabandhan campaign in Dudhamtiya forest, in the subsequent years, Rakshabandhan of trees is celebrated and an environment fair is organized every year on different dates at 38 places including in Hazaribagh Eastern Forest Division area’s Bhelwara, Kusumbha, Chalaniya, Digwar, Khurdih, Sarauni Khurd, Babhanvai, Kesura, Mayuranchawa.

Saurabh Chandra, Divisional Forest Officer, Hazaribagh Eastern Forest Division, says that Mahadev Mahato’s dedication towards the environment is amazing. “In the forest department, Dudhmatia forest is identified by his name only. His continuous campaign is inspiring for all of us,” he added.

Mahadev Mahato retired as principal from the upgraded High School located at Dharampur on January 31, 2014 but even today his campaign continues unabated. Political-social worker Kishore Kumar Sinha, a resident of Tatijharia, says that it is because of this campaign, which has been going on for the last 27 years, the Dudhmatia forest has expanded now.

Bateshwar Prasad Mehta, a senior leader of a political party residing in this area, says that Mahadev Mahto has a father-son relationship with every tree in this forest. “The way he spread awareness in the entire area is amazing in itself,” he stated.

Mahadev Mahato was conferred the Srishti Samman on March 6, 2017 at a function organised by the National Innovation Foundation in New Delhi. He was awarded the Jharkhand Samman at the hands of the then Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghuvar Das on November 13, 2017. Apart from this, he has been honoured with many awards including ‘Jungle Man’, Jharkhand Ratna Samman. Now, he is called to the Forest Department’s Forestry Training Centre as well as in various colleges-universities to lecture on forest and wildlife conservation.




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