Himachal Pradesh to launch plantation drive to combat climate change

July 21st, 2008 - 10:09 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, July 21 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh is launching a massive plantation drive next month to increase the state’s forest cover as part of its contribution to lowering global warming. The state already has a quarter of its geographical area under forest cover. In the first phase, the government hopes, at least one member of the targeted 120,000 rural families will plant a medicinal or herbal sapling on Aug 3, which is being observed as “Van Mahotsava (plantation)” day, state Forest Minister J.P. Nadda told IANS.

The objective is to make the afforestation programme a mass movement in the state, which has 25.81 percent of its geographical area under forest cover, he added.

“Himachal Pradesh is in fact the first state in the country to take the initiative in combating climate change at the micro-level,” Nadda said.

The government would provide 1.4 million saplings of 57 species free of cost to the rural families.

“The species will be planted on the basis of the agro-climatic conditions of different areas,” the minister said.

After the Aug 3 drive, the forest department would carry out an afforestation programme over 20,000 hectares, Nadda said, adding that a compensatory afforestation programme would be launched later to cover 1,800 hectares in 37 selected blocks.

Referring to earlier plantation drives that focused on planting commercial species like pine and khair, the minister said the adverse impact of the pine forests on other fauna species was grave: they did not allow any other species to survive.

The acidic pine needles had also contributed to soil degradation in vast areas in the state, the minister said.

The latest report of the Forest Survey of India has revealed that the area of the state’s moderate dense forests (tree-cover ranging from 40 to 70 percent), which account for more than 50 percent of the total green cover, have decreased from 7,883 sq km to 7,831 sq km, a reduction of 52 sq km.

However, the area under very dense forests (tree-cover in excess of 70 percent) has marginally increased from 1,093 sq km to 1,097 sq km.

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