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July 1, 2016 was an important day in the history of Maharashtra. On this day, the State not only unleashed a mission, but also got an entry in the Limca Book of World records. The day saw a momentous campaign led by the people of Maharashtra of planting trees on a huge scale. Setting a huge record, the people planted 2.82 crore trees on a single day, giving hope to challenges like degradation of natural resources and habitats, pollution and climate change and boosting the morale of Maharashtra’s Forest Department.
For the Government of Maharashtra, the record was the first milestone in the path of State’s mission of 33 per cent green cover. The resolve for ‘2 crore Tree Plantation’ aimed by the State Government last year was made possible with the great support of people, NGOs, spiritual institutions, farmers and school/college students, who came together to plant around 2.82 crore trees in a day.
In order to increase the green cover of Maharashtra further, it is essential for citizens to come together, plant trees and make collective efforts for their survival. At present, the forest area of Maharashtra stands at 20 per cent of its total area. For this to reach 33 per cent, it is essential to plan and run a perfect tree plantation programme. Irrespective of whether these saplings would be planted on forest lands, boundaries of agriculture fields, campuses of schools and colleges, lands belonging to railways and State Transport Corporation, hillocks as well as areas under the Ministry of Defence and National Highways, the plantation drive will be as eventful as last year, assures the State Government.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Ministry of Railways and State Forest Department on planting trees on the railway land in Maharashtra. The process of establishing an Eco Battalion has been accelerated. The citizens can become a member of the Green Army through the website, http://www.greenarmy.mahaforest.gov.in.
The department has started a helpline (1926) to encourage people to share information about forests and wildlife and incidents of forest fire and illegal cutting of trees, besides registering other complaints. The forest area of Marathwada is just 4.5 per cent of its geographical area. The forest area of a district like Latur is even meagre at 0.76 per cent. Due to changes in climate globally, the State has to face calamities such as droughts, floods and hailstorms on and off. Last year, Latur city had to be supplied with water through the Jaldoot Express (water express trains). As a solution to the persisting problem, the State must widen its forest area and accelerate the concept of Vanyukta Shivar Abhiyan. Under the leadership of Minister for Forests Sudhir Mungantiwar, the Forest Department is eminently striding ahead towards Green Maharashtra. The mega tree plantation event last year was specially admired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’. Eminent film actor Amitabh Bachchan has also appealed to people for participation in the tree plantation campaign.
“For planting 4 crore trees, drive should become a mass movement” or the success of Maharashtra’s plantation drive, the number of hands planting trees should be increased and we must build an army of tree lovers,” said Minister of Finance, Planning and Forests Sudhir Mungantiwar, addressing a review meeting of afforestation drive in Pune Revenue Division. He said, for afforestation, awareness should be created and scientific planning must be done. The Forests Minister added that cooperation of people is the need of the hour. The target for Maharashtra’s plantation drive next year is to plant 13 crore trees. “Bamboo is a kalpavriksha (wishfulfilling tree). We should explain qualities of other trees as well to people. Along with plantation, nurturing trees is also important. We have resolved to increase State’s forest cover to 33 per cent,” he said.
Underlining the fact that the protection of environment is everyone’s responsibility, he encouraged people to come together to accomplish objectives like the tree plantation drive. Afforestation should not remain the responsibility of the government only, it should become a mass movement, as global warming is matter of concern for every living being on the planet. “Protection of environment is also a matter of happiness. We all must participate in the drive, plant trees and spread prosperity and happiness all around,” he said.
A planned initiative A programme can only be successful with excellent and complete planning. This year too, the State Forest Department has planned the 4 crore tree plantation programme with precision. A 33-point programme has been chalked out by the department. Various works are planting trees on both sides of the road, greening of hillocks, plantation on the sides of canals and campuses, making available manpower, finalisation of the locations for tree plantation, digging, making available quality saplings and others. A crash programme for making the saplings ready has been taken up on the basis of ‘Nursery in every village’. Saplings have been provided a number through a computer software and accounts are being maintained for plant species, production and sales. Tree Plantation Committees have been set up at State, district, taluka and village levels. The volunteers and coordination officers at these have been decided. To receive information on every decision at every level, real time reporting arrangements have been made through computer software under the supervision of Additional Chief Conservator of Forests (Information Technology). Every step of planning this year’s tree plantation and the work carried out so far is being uploaded on the website of Forest Department. Whenever a work is carried out with dedication, it brings success for sure. Last year, the campaign was implemented with the concept of ‘Only goal: 2 crore tree plantation,’ and the same was eminently successful with immense participation of people. This year, the department is working on ‘Only goal: 4 crore tree plantation’. With the onset of monsoon in sight, all the works connected to tree plantation have been going with full steam. Now it is necessary to be fully prepared for the period of seven days from July 1 to 7 to carry out the plantation of 4 crore trees. We also have the duty to keep these plants alive.
–Dr. Surekha M. Mulay, Departmental Liasioning Officer