Kullu-Manali, where the government is promoting ecotourism, has witnessed unprecedented plantation in the last five years as people here have made it a mission to cover all available forest land with different species of trees.
All this started after National Green Tribunal (NGT) slammed Himachal government and Kullu administration on various environmental issues multiple times. Concerned over the fragile ecology of Rohtang area being damaged by increasing tourism and increasing number of vehicles, NGT had asked state government to regulate tourism and plant trees.
Lakhs of new saplings are being planted every year. Be it forest department, mahila mandal, yuvak mandal, panchayats, hoteliers, taxi operators, stakeholders or villagers, all are rushing for plantation during monsoon season.
Burua panchayat of Manali alone has planted more than one lakh saplings in last few years. Both government and private schools have contributed to increase the green cover in the district.
While the plantation drive was mostly influenced by environmentalists who are concerned over global warming, the drive was also meant for appeasing NGT as it was unhappy from pollution harming the ecology of Rohtang and nearby area.
Over 60 thousand saplings planted below Rohtang in a couple of years earned Sarvottam Paudhropan Puraskar to the forest guard Neeraj Thakur.
Kullu divisional forest officer Dr Neeraj Chadha, who helped in making plantation drive a mission in Kullu and implemented NGT order efficiently won Aranya Gaurav Puraskar from Himachal government.
“Plantation has become a mission for people here. Be it students, women or elderly, all are coming forward for the green cause. Even these days plantation is continuing at multiple places. Local women are playing an important role. We are providing suitable species to the people and are protecting the area under new plantation by fencing,” DFO Dr Neeraj Chadha said.
The mahila mandals in Kullu are in competition to plant maximum number of saplings. The situation is such that all vacant forest land near settlements are under plantation and people are now going to the far places in search for empty land. A large number of men and women from Prini village on Tuesday planted saplings near Hamta pass.
Prini panchayat pradhan Shiv Dayal said each resident of the village is committed to plant at least three saplings every year during rainy season.
“We are doing so for many years. Once former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had asked the villagers while planning a tree that every person should not just plant a tree but they should take its good care too,” he said.
36 students from School of Architecture and Planning, Apeejay Institute of Technology, Greater Noida, who are in Naggar village here to learn local “kathkuni” architecture, too planted a one thousand saplings on Monday.
“While we are taking the knowledge from the hills, the plantation was the best idea for us the students and faculty members to give back to community and environment. 34 local persons assisted us in the drive,” a student said.
Forest minister Govind Thakur said 15.1 thousand sqkm of the state is covered with forests, of which most of the area is under thin green cover.
“The total forest cover in the state is 27.12 per cent. We aim to increase this cover to 37 per cent. We are concentrating on plantation in thin forests to make them thicker. We have started a campaign to plant 25 lakh saplings on 9,000 hectare land in the state till July 24. He said government is promoting ecotourism in Himachal Pradesh,” he said.
Kullu plants 3.5 lakh saplings in five days
Over 3.5 lakh saplings of different species have been planted on 400 hectare forest land from July 20 to 24 under special plantation drive in Kullu forest division, an official said.
Kullu conservator of forest Anil Sharma said forest department had marked 62 places on 400 hactare land for plantation. “Local residents, mahila mandals, yuvak mandals, panchayatiraj and education institutions played an important role in achieving the target. Depending upon local environment and demand from people, we supplied suitable species,” he said.
He added that the plantation campaigns were monitored in the real time using an application. “We had dug pits at marked places in advance and saplings were made available on the spot. We have adequate budget to prepare nurseries, for plantation and maintenance,” he said.
“We are happy that people are aware about the importance of the forests and the forest cover in state is increasing regularly. We have recorded decline in number of forest fires and felling of trees.”
Sharma added that people are planting saplings even on private land which is a good sign. A botanical garden is also planned to be developed at Mohal in Kullu where a large number of species would be planted, he added.