TRIPURA: Tripura government employee is writing a green script. Amid rising concerns over the loss of forest cover in the Northeast due to reasons including rapid urbanisation, Bibhuti Debbarma is raising awareness on environmental protection.
During government holidays, Debbarma, a scriptwriter in Tripura’s Information and Cultural Affairs Department, will be among the dwellers of two forest areas to work in diverse fields. The 48-year-old, who heads an NGO “Youth For Integration”, and his colleagues in it create awareness among the tribals on the protection of environment and conservation of water, educate them how they can avail the benefits of various government schemes, impart entrepreneurial training to them and work with them to increase their agricultural productivity.
Environmental degradation is a major concern in Tripura. Given the threat of climate change, Debbarma and his NGO members organise camps in forest areas and create awareness on the need to protect forests. By collaborating with an organisation from outside the Northeast that works in the field of environmental protection, the Youth For Integration organised two film festivals in Tripura. Youths were invited and shown films and documentaries with environment being the subject.
“You will find a lot of trees by the fringes of forests. But when you enter it, you will not find many trees. Some elements somehow manage to avoid the glare of forest guards and lop off trees. It is good that the Tripura government takes up afforestation programmes every year to maintain the ecological balance,” Debbarma told this newspaper.
Social work is in Debbarma’s blood. His mother, Dhanu Rani, has been a social worker for decades. Debbarma got involved in social activities as a college student. Back in 1994 when insurgency was at its peak in the Northeast, some of his friends began working on peace-building. They would organise “peace camps” in collaboration with some NGOs from mainland India. When peace eventually returned, they began working in other fields for the benefit of the tribals.
“We founded our NGO in 2009. We realised that since Tripura was by and large peaceful then, we could work in other fields. So, we began to work for struggling self-help groups and entrepreneurs. Our focus was to give livelihood options to people,” Debbarma said.“We educate villagers on the various schemes of the government. Many people are not aware of those. We tell them how they can avail the benefits. We have a centre and people come to us seeking our help,” he said.
Another institution that it has tied up with is the Forest Research Centre for Livelihood Extension. This Central institute helps the volunteers of the Youth For Integration become master trainers after training. They then extend voluntary services to the people.
“We have also partnered with water conservationist Rajendra Singh’s NGO ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh’. We educate people how they can save water. We also work with people engaged in making bamboo and cane-based products. We identify tribal artists who are into bamboo and cane craftmanship and try to give them a market. We help them sell their products in fairs and expos,” Debbarma said.
The Youth For Integration has its units in Tripura’s all eight districts. During the Covid pandemic, it helped some 2,000 families with ration. An organisation “Adivasi Lives Matter” provided funds for the service.