The state government’s initiative to green Himachal and plant saplings is ahead and has been slated from the very first year of its governance. The government is aiming to increase the forest area up to 30 percent by the year 2030 and to achieve this goal various initiatives have been taken and every section of the society were being involved in plantation programs.
Plantation campaigns are being carried out by the Forest Department in various identified places across the state. In the year 2019, with the help of 1,18,932 local people 26,47,146 saplings were planted. This campaign was run for five days and it was first time in the history of the state that so many saplings were planted within five days under a campaign.
As a result of this kind of public support campaigns, the forest department has got success in increasing the green cover of the state. According to the report of Forest Survey of India for the year 2019, the green forest cover area which was 15,100 sq km in the year 2017 has now increased to 15433.52 sq km in the year 2019. It is also pertinent to mention here that along with the change in total forest cover area in the Indian Forest Survey report, the increase has also been reported in Very Dense, Moderate Dense and Open Forest areas. The moderately dense forest area of the state, which was 6,705 sq km in the year 2017, has increased to 7,125.93 sq km in 2019. Similarly, between 2017 and 2019, the dense forest area of the state has also increased from 3,110 sq km to 3,112.71 sq km.
In order to connect the forest enhancement with livelihood, the ‘HP Forest Eco System Management and Livelihood Improvement’ project of Rs. 800 crores funded by JICA has been started in six districts which include Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul-Spiti, Bilaspur, Shimla and Kinnaur. The main goal of this project is to improve ecosystem services in the forest area for sustainable socio-economic development in the state. Under the project, 460 committees will be constituted for promoting activities like forest and environmental protection, biodiversity and organism conservation and improvement in livelihood like activities would be encouraged. Through this project, local rural forest development committees will be empowered to visit various states and various training programmes will be organised to make them aware of about the ongoing schemes in other states.
In addition, the HP Forest Ecosystem Climate Proofing Project of Rs 310 crore is being implemented in the districts of Kangra and Chamba in collaboration with the German Government and the German Development Bank (KFW).
Apart from this, to take plantation on a wider scale, the Forest Department is implementing several other schemes through which every section of the society is being involved in the plantation programs. To inculcate the spirit of conservation of forest and environment among the students the government has started Vidyarthi Van Mitra Yojana, under which the plots in forest lands has been allotted to them for plantation of useful plant species. Similarly the ‘Van Samruddhi Jan Samridhi Yojana‘ has also been started, under this scheme people will be provided processing, value addition and marketing at local-level by collecting herbs from rural forests. Employment opportunities are being created by selling wild herbs and promoting their production from private land.
The state government has also launched the ‘Samudayik Van Samvardhan Yojna’ to ensure participation of Yuvak and Mahila Mandals in forestry activities. Under this scheme, plantation is being done on the vacant land around the villages and forest promotion related works are also being done by Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC) and Village Forest Development Committees (VFDC). Micro plans of works are also being made by these committees themselves.
To make every section aware about the rights of girl child and to bring the idea of linking them to environment and to the society, the State Government has launched a scheme ‘Ek Buta Beti Ke Naam’. Under this scheme, after 20 September 2019, the Forest Department is providing five saplings, tri-guards, child’s nameplate, 20 kg of earthworm fertilizer and technical information to the daughter’s family born in the state. Under this scheme about 11,50,000 saplings are projected to be planted in the next five years and for which Rs 28.75 crore will be spent.
Forestry and environment protection cannot be successful without proper guidance and public participation. Thus to promote public participation the government is also implementing external aided projects in the state. The government has introduced Mukhya Mantri Mahila Van Mitra Puraskaar and Mukhya Mantri Yuva Van Mitra Puraskaar schemes under which first prize of Rs. 50 thousand, second prize of Rs. 40 thousand and third prize of Rs. 30 thousand would be given for outstanding doing work . Under Mukhya Mantri Van Mitra Panchayat Puraskaar’ for Panchayats and ‘Mukhya Mantri Sarvotam Van Prabandhan Samiti Puraskaar‘ for various committees the first prize of rupees one lakh, second prize of Rs.75 thousand and third prize of Rs.50 thousand would be given along-with certificates for outstanding contribution in forest protection/fire protection, raising of best plantation, biodiversity conservation, developing sustainable usufruct and sharing mechanism.
These efforts of the government have helped not only in forest conservation but also in steady rise in the green cover of the state. As per the report of Forest Survey of India released in Delhi by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India on 30 December 2019, the green forest cover of Himachal Pradesh has registered an increase of 333.52 square kilometers, due to which Himachal Pradesh has been succeeded in securing the fifth position in increased forest cover in the country. It is a matter of pride for the state.
This achievement has been due to the forest protection and plantation works being carried out in the state. In which, besides forest department, the participation of the people of the state is commendable.