JHARKHAND: In March 2017, soon after taking over as the divisional forest officer (DFO), Lohardaga, Vikas Kumar Ujjwal was on a field visit. A few metres from the Kuru Forest guesthouse, where he was staying, Ujjwal was taken aback when he spotted hundreds of villagers carrying illegal firewood from a nearby forest. When enquired, the locals told him that they didn’t have anything else to do for their livelihood and hence, were going to sell them at a local market.
After a brief discussion with other forest department officials, Ujjwal realised that rampant forest fires, destruction of Salgi forest in Kuru range of the Lohardaga forest division, violence between government forces and Maoists were the issues that needed immediate attention in the region. In the next three years, this young 2014-batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer transformed this Maoist-infested jungle in Lohardaga in Jharkhand into a tourist destination that has led to a host of economic activities.
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