Himachal Pradesh’s drive to combat climate change

August 20th, 2008 - 10:48 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Aug 20 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh plans to expand its tree plantation drive in what its forest minister calls India’s first micro-level initiative to combat climate change after residents all over the state planted 1.5 million saplings on a single day.Saplings of 57 indigenous species like neem, banyan, jamun and peepal were planted Aug 3 during the drive called the Jan Jan Sanjivani programme. The 1.5 million saplings planted exceeded the target of 1.27 million.

Buoyed by that success, the state government plans to involve the people in an even bigger way in the next plantation drive that is slated to start in January.

“Now, the government is planning to plant 45-50 lakh (4.5-5 million) medicinal and wild fruit plants under the programme next year,” Forest Minister J.P. Nadda told IANS.

“Our aim is to plant saplings throughout the year to take in the polluted air and release life-sustaining oxygen for us and play host to animals and insects.

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

The state has 66 percent of its geographical area under forest cover. It is also one of those most vulnerable to climate change as Himalayan glaciers retreat due to global warming.

During the Aug 3 plantation campaign, the maximum demand from the people was for saplings of the medicinal plant amla, Nadda said; 388,629 amla saplings were distributed.

Wild pomegranate (136,470 saplings), bhera (89,350), ritha (56,386) and harad (30,601) followed amla in popularity in the villages.

In the towns, aloe vera was the most popular, with 26,328 saplings distributed.

The forest department had spent Rs.5.4 million to provide at least one sapling to every household in all villages and towns.

When the drive is expanded, the department will plant trees in over 20,000 hectares, Nadda said, adding that a compensatory afforestation programme for trees cut due to various projects would be launched later to cover 1,800 more hectares in 37 selected blocks.

He said before next year’s drive, the field staff of the forest department would ask every household which sapling(s) it wanted.

Nadda plans to have 8-8.5 million saplings planted next year, mostly of medicinal and fruit plants.

Additional principal chief conservator of forests A.K. Gulati, who is associated with the programme, said the aim was to motivate the common man to grow commercially valuable species.

“Once the villagers start understanding its economic benefits, the programme would gain momentum,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state public works department (PWD) has also launched a plantation campaign.

More than 30,000 employees of the PWD have been entrusted with the task of planting 1.5 million saplings of ornamental plants like bottle brush, silver oak and bougainvillea along national and state highways by the end of this month.

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