The new schemes launched by the Forest Department of Himachal Pradesh Government have not only increased the green cover but have also been able to provide livelihood to local dwellers. Official sources told that special plantation campaigns are being carried out to increase the green cover of the state. During year 2018, 88,53,532 saplings were planted on 9785 hectares of forest land in the hill State.
In 2019, 65,34,217 saplings were planted on about 7499 hectares of forest land under the special plantation campaign in Himachal Pradesh. Currently about two third of the State’s geographical area of about 55,673 square kms is under forest cover. However, increased economic activity in the past decade has created substantial demand for forest produce and resultantly forest land has come under severe pressure from industry and residential needs. The State aims to increase the area under cover to at least 50 per cent.
Sources informed that for the first time in the state, extensive publicity campaign is being conducted in areas sensitive to forest fire and people are being made aware to save forests from fire by various means. A new manual has been created for forest fire prevention and immunization. Apart from this, a Rapid Forest Fire Force has been formed by connecting the citizens of the state with the fire alert SMS service based on the satellite of Forest Survey of India so that the information of forest fire can be immediately reported and appropriate action could be taken..
The Van Mitra scheme has been started with a view to inculcating the spirit of conservation of forest and environment among school students. Under this, the students are allocating a fixed forest area to plus two schools for plantation and looking after the saplings. Last year, 228 schools and 164.30 hectares of land were selected and 166830 saplings were planted under this scheme. During this financial year, 146 schools and 131.5 hectares of land have been identified and a target of planting 130100 saplings.
The Forest department is also playing an important role in promoting eco-tourism. An amount of Rs. 18.18 crore has been allocated for Janjehli area of Mandi district for eco tourism development. This amount will be spent on the improvement of trekking routes, forest rest houses, public facilities and forest checks. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has provided an amount of rupees three crores each for Manali and Nachan for the development of natural parks and walking paths. Apart from this, camping sites have been started at 25 places to promote eco-tourism in the state.
The Himachal Pradesh Forest Ecology Management and Livelihood Improvement Project of 800 crores funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is being implemented in 18 forest divisions of six districts of the state. During 2018, 11.58 crores were spent under the scheme which aims at increasing the forest area and providing local people with forest-based livelihood opportunities. A provision of about 29.71 crore has been made on this project this year.
The community forest promotion scheme has been started to actively connect the local people in the forest management. Under this, saplings will be planted on the vacant forest area near the villages, and people will also do the work of land and forest enrichment. The state government has also launched another scheme named Van Samriddhi-Jan Samridhi, which aims to create employment opportunities by selling wild herbs and promoting their production from private land.
Under this scheme, arrangements are being made for the maintenance, value addition and marketing of herbs after forming a group of local residents who collect herbs. The scheme provides for a grant of up to 25 per cent to promote herb-based pharmaceutical manufacturing industries. Apart from this, provision has also been made to give incentives related to herb trading to individual private entrepreneurs. The scheme is currently being implemented in seven districts where groups of local people have been formed and 45.825 lakh has been spent. This year, 200 lakh has been allocated for this scheme.
The state government has launched another new scheme named “Ek Buta Beti Ke Naam”, which aims to make people aware of the importance of forests and the rights of girls by planting saplings in the name of a newborn girl. As a mark of tribute to the former Prime Minister and Bharat Ratna awardee, Atal Bihari Vajpyee on his 95th birth anniversary, Himachal Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur launched the scheme from the late leader’s house at Prini near Manali in Himachal Pradesh.
Under the scheme, five tree saplings would be presented to the families of newly born girl child along with other kit. Significantly, Vajpayee had special connection with Himachal Pradesh and considered the hill state as his second home. Often he would spare time from his busy schedule and visit his Himachal abode at Pirni in Manali. The logo of Ek Buta Beti Ke Naam was also been launched by the Chief Minister.
Pine leaves are the main cause of fire. A new policy has been formulated to collect these leaves and remove them from forestland. Under this, a provision has been made to provide 50 per cent grant (maximum 25 lakh) on capital investment for setting up industry based on pine leaves. Special efforts are being made to remove Lantana from forestland. Last year, Lantana was removed from an area of 4567 hectares, while this year a target has been set to remove Lantana from an area of 5000 hectares.
Himachal Pradesh has also set up its first Forest Police Station “Van Thana”, a specialized police station of the Forest Department to check illegal activities including tree felling in the forest areas of the State. With this Himachal Pradesh has become the second state in the country after Madhya Pradesh to take this initiative. The specialized Forest Police Stations aim to conserve rich forest cover by taking preventive and punitive measures against poachers. The specialized forest police station would have duly trained officials in