An increase of 393 sq km has been recorded in the forests of Himachal Pradesh according to a Forest Survey of India report. With an increase in 0.71 per cent forest cover, Himachal Pradesh is eighth amongst the states and Union Territories in the country to record rise in forest area. However, HP has topped amongst the northern states.
On the back of growth in the forest area cover, the Himachal Pradesh government has now set a target to increase the green cover of the state from 27 percent to 30 percent and the forest department has started special plantation drive to achieve this target.
A special plantation campaign was organized at 106 locations at various parts of the state. Under this campaign, 86251 locals people participated and 17,63,899 plants were planted, out of which 8,09,299 plants were of broad-leaved species. In year 2018-19 plantations was done in 7,493 hectare area and total 67,05,982 plants were planted at different locations across the state.
Forest Minister Govind Singh Thakur said that in order to create mass awareness regarding prevention and control of forest fires due to a prolonged dry spell in the state, ‘Rapid Forest Fire Fighting Force’ has been constituted with 13000 volunteers as its members.
Besides, special events like rallies, chat shows, street plays, painting and slogan writing and exhibitions were organized to create wider awareness among the people regarding the forest fires precautions and the measures to be adopted in case of major forest fire. Two forest fighting vehicles have been provided to forest fire sensitive areas of the state.
The State government is also providing weapons to forest guards in a phased manner for which they would be provided a grant of 12,000. Licenses of the weapons will be in their names. The forest guards would also be provided safety devices like fireproof jackets, gloves and boots etc. for fire-fighting purpose.
The government in order to ensure the active participation of local people have launched ‘Samudayik Van Samvardhan Yojna’ in the state under which empty forest lands will be allotted to villagers for plantation of useful plants and to look after other works related to forest produce, Similarly under Vidyarthi Van Mitra Yojana forest land will be allotted to the schools for plantation purpose. This scheme has been started with an aim to raise the spirit of conservation of forests and environment among the students.
To create employment opportunities by selling wild herbs and promoting their production from private land the State government has started ‘Van Samridhi Jan Samridhi Yojana’. Under this scheme, arrangements have been made for the maintenance and marketing of wild herbs.
To promote herbs based medicinal manufacturing industries and individual entrepreneurs a provision up to 25 per cent subsidy has been made under this scheme. The State government would also set up industry for manufacture of products out of pine leafs for which 50 percent subsidy will be provided to manufacturers.
The government has started ‘Mukhya Mantri Sarvotam Van Prabandhan Samiti Puraskaar’ and ‘Mukhya Mantri Van Mitra Panchayat Puraskaar’ scheme.
Under these schemes prize of rupees one lakh to 50 thousand would be given along with certificates for outstanding work in forest protection/fire protection, raising of best plantation, biodiversity conservation, developing sustainable usufruct sharing mechanism and other fire related activities. These prizes would be given every year on World Forestry Day.
To connect the forest enhancement with livelihood, the ‘HP Forest Eco System Management & Livelihood Improvement’ project of 800 crores funded by JICA has been started in six districts viz Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul-Spiti, Bilaspur, Shimla and Kinnaur.
Under the project, 460 committees would be constituted for promoting activities like forest and environmental protection, biodiversity and organism conservation and improvement in livelihood like activities would be encouraged. A Joint Forest Management and Public Forest Management Committees have also been constituted in State by the Forest Department.