Punjab is known for its rich agriculture production in India. But very little is known about its miniscule forest cover of 7% as against 65% green cover of states like Uttarakhand.
In what is being billed as the first major afforestation initiative, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has embarked on a green mission to double the forest cover to 15% from 7%. Badal, who became the CM for the record fifth time, formally inaugurated the Rs 1,900 crore “green Punjab mission” in the hallowed precincts of the prestigious Forest Research Institute (FRI). Under the project, the state government signed aMoU with the FRI here to achieve the goal (5-8 years) with the involvement of farmers and the state forest department.
From seed to trees, the MoU envisages the FRI to tackle all the forest-related problems and provide its technical expertise to farmers in the maintenance of the green cover. “FRI will not only plant a sapling but take care of it for 3 to 5 years till it properly grows,” said Badal after the signing of the MoU.
He also gave a nod to provide 40 lakh saplings to all the government institutions and villages for free of cost to make the state clean and pollution free under the ongoing green drive. The CM asked officers of the forest department to carefully choose plants as per the topography of different regions of the state to ensure their longevity.
Officers were required to play a proactive role in transforming the campaign into a mass movement by ensuring maintenance of saplings after they were planted. He also gave a nod for sending Forest Department officers abroad to undertake further studies for the preservation of plants in scientific manner. The Chief Minister approved projects worth Rs. 16 crore including five new ones for improving urban forestry and imparting education to the citizens by creating pockets of forest near Ropar, Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana, and Bathinda and for the establishment of common facility centre in Talwara for increased value-addition of the local products. He gave concurrence for the Annual Plan Outlay for 2015-16 under CAMPA budgeted at Rs. 67.95 crore.
The construction of state Forest Institute at Ladhowal near Ludhiana, in collaboration with Forest Research Institute (FRI) Dehradun, is going on in full swing. ThisRs. 23.29 crore worth project would be completed by November this year. The institute would focus on research related to agro forestry promotion in the state.
A Clonal Eucalyptus Nursery is being set up at Ludhiana in collaboration with the FRI, which would be the biggest of its kind in North India, with a capacity to provide 50 lakh seedlings to the farmers.
A nursery of herbal-cum-medicinal plant has been set up on 25-acre land in Talwara region, which would serve as a model for replication in other areas of Kandi region in the future. Plantation of industrial timber and ornamental tree species will be carried out under this programme. To ensure proper pricing of the timber grown by farmers, timber market will be strengthened and upgraded throughout the state.
To cater to the research needs of the state, a research institute will be established in Punjab with the help of FRI. “Through this green mission, the Punjab government has set an example which will be followed by other states in future,” said V K Bahuguna, Director General Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education which controls the FRI.