Planting a Green Future
“It will cost around 38 Trillion Dollars to Create Oxygen for 6 months for all human beings on Earth.
Trees do it for free! They save us, let’s save them”
Forests are, without a doubt the most valuable entity on the planet. It nurtures a diverse wildlife, supplies humans with resources and plays a vital role in protecting Earth by reducing the effects of global warming. In the current day and age, keeping in mind the extreme pace of industrialization and urbanization, it is imperative that governments take a lead in stepping up their environmental conservation efforts. In India, the state of Maharashtra is leading by example by doing exactly the same.
The state of Maharashtra is home to dense forests and an abundance of wildlife species. Maharashtra also happens to be one of the most economically developed states. Maharashtra’s Forest Department under the passionate leadership of Shri Sudhir Mungantiwar, Hon’ble Minister of Finance & Planning, Forests, has taken a lead to ensure that Maharashtra’s forest conservation efforts are balanced with the rapid pace of its development. Various steps to nourish, safeguard, protect and improve the green cover of the state have been taken in the last 4 years.
Recognizing the importance of wildlife in maintaining a stable ecology, the Forest Department has imparted special attention to its conservation. National Parks like Navegaon, Nagzira, Pench, Sahyadari and Tadoba were significantly upgraded, both technologically and ecologically, and were allotted additional funds to sustain themselves better. Maharashtra also happens to have a large population of Tigers. Recognizing the need to raise awareness regarding the protection of our national animal, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan was appointed as the brand ambassador of Maharashtra government’s Tiger Conservation Project. As cities and towns expand, the chances for man-animal conflicts increase too. To combat this, buffer zones were declared around key Tiger projects. Special surveillance and emergency services were also started to protect both wildlife and human from each other.
Bodies like the State Zoo Authority, State Mangrove Cell and Maharashtra State Wildlife Development Fund were established with the clear mission to conserve wildlife and educate the people about its importance. Creating such independent bodies frees these agendas from governmental interference and also speeds up their work. Projects like Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Tadoba Leopard Safari and Sanjay Gandhi National Park Tourist Project were possible only due the efforts of these bodies. The work done by the State Mangrove Cell resulted in an increase of mangrove cover from 222 sq. km. in 2015 to 304 sq. km. in 2017. The mangrove cell was also responsible for establishing Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and has successfully promoted crab culture and oyster culture initiatives.
Perhaps the largest achievement of Maharashtra’s Forest Department was the 50 Crore Mega Plantation Drive. In 2016, the Forest Government planted around 2.81 Crore saplings in a single day. This achievement found its way into the Limca Book of World Records. Buoyed by the success of this drive, Shri Sudhir Mungantiwar announced 50 Crore Plantation Drive in 2017. With the aim of increasing Maharashtra’s green cover from 22% to 33%, the plantation drive had a target to plant 50 Crore saplings over a period of 3 years. From 1st July to 7th July 2017, 5.43 Crore saplings were planted as a part of this drive. This feat was again recognized by the Limca Book of Records. This year, the target was set at planting 13 Crore saplings over the month of July. By the end of the plantation period on 31st July, more than 15 Crore saplings were planted. In 2019, the target is set at planting 33 Crore saplings all over Maharashtra. Considering the enthusiastic public support and efficient government machinery working behind the drive, it is no doubt that this target too will be easily met. Because of these consistent efforts, the tree cover in the state has improved from 9,558 sq. km. in 2015 to 9,831 sq. km. in 2017 – a rise of 273 sq. km.
The Forest Department also greatly used technology to achieve these massive plantation targets. A 24×7 Helpline called ‘1926 MahaForest’ was established to provide all necessary information regarding the plantation drive. A specially designed mobile application called ‘My Plant’ was also used to guide people regarding plantation areas, events and to record their plantation activities. The Department was also successful in engaging common citizens to participate in the plantation drives. Through the Green Army initiative, a large volunteer force of more than 50 lakh members was created to coordinate and participate in the plantation drives.
The biggest contributions by the Forest Department were in the field of social forestry. A Bamboo Research and Training Centre was set up at Chichpalli in Chandrapur to train local youth and women to manufacture various bamboo related products. A Forest Academy is also slated to be established at Chandrapur with the same objective of providing employable skills to the local population. The Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Jan Van Vikas Yojana was designed to create new schemes to increase employment generation. Another simple but path-breaking decision that was been taken is at VIP is visiting officers, rest houses and on the premises of Forest Department are to be received and felicitated only by offering a book or sapling.
State Government of Maharashtra under the visionary leadership of Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis and Shri Sudhir Mungantiwar, Minister of Finance & Planning, Forests are striving hard to bring about a green revolution through well planned plantation campaigns and an unprecedented management of the Forest Department and its assets.
When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope. So, let’s pave the way to make our surrounding green or healthier and happier place to live.
Chief Minister’s Fellowship Programme 2017, Maharashtra