Shimla: The natural vegetation is pre-requisite of life on earth. It provides oxygen, food, wood, herbs and many more valuable products for the living beings. Forest are essential for all kind of species to live in harmony and peace. It helps to provide compatible and comfortable environment. In order to extend this noble approach of forestation, the State Government is striving to cover maximum area under forestation. The Government is committed towards environment conservation and had initiated many constructive measures for the cause.

State Government is poised to create awareness about environment conservation among people. For making it a successful venture, ‘Samriti Van Yojna’ is launched in urban areas of State. ‘Samriti Van Yojna includes plantation drive by people on auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries etc. to remember their beloved ones. This effort will add to the forestation and environment conservation. From the next year, this scheme will also be launched in the rural areas. Under this scheme, the forest department would provide the saplings for plantation.

Good nurseries are essential for the plantation. After coming into power, the state government had re-established all the closed nurseries. It will help the plantation drive by preparing saplings in the nearby nurseries. For increasing the survival percentage of plants, the maintenance period of plantation has been fixed for five years as compared to 3 years. Under CAMPA, this period is increased from 5 to 7 years. Besides these measures, R.C.C. fencing is being promoted to curb deforestation. In order to get rid of the lantana (a dangerous weed), the State Government has spent Rs. 56.84 crore to make 41,060 hectare area lantana free during last four years. It has generated fuel, fodder species and contributed in water conservation activities for the benefits of local people and nomads.

In order to extend the green cover the government had initiated various schemes. More than 5.50 crore plants were planted on 48,000 hectare area during last four years. The main focus was on wide leaf, wild fruit tree and medicinal species, so that rural people could get employment in the field of wild fruits and herbs production. During this period, Rs. 1.35 crore medicinal plants were also planted under various schemes. Due to these efforts of the government, an increase of 13 sq. kms. has been recorded in efficient conservation and management of forest in Himachal Pradesh as per the 2015- report of India State of Forest released by Indian Forest Survey Institute.

The State Government had provided relaxation of two years in “Nau-tod” rule and for essential developmental activities in tribal areas under Forest Act, 1980 to give a new dimension to the development in the remote areas.

The State Government is contemplating a work plan for honouring officers and officials who has done commandable work in forest area so that the proficiency of these officials and environment conservation is ensured. The Government is also considering to honour and promote the Forest Guards, who have no incident of fire in their beat. The Government is also considering to provide three percent reservation as out of turn promotion to Forest Guards who have done commendable work in curving illegal deforestation, wood theft, forest mafia and forest conservation. To promote good work at Divisional Forest level, such Divisional Forest Officers, Assistant Conservator, Range Officers and Forest Guard would get appropriate prize on their good record.

A satellite tracking system is being implemented in the State to curb fire incidents in forests particularly during summer. The system will help to protect precious forest wealth. The State Government is emphasising people participation in curbing forest fire and is planning to provide income alternative to people by collecting pine leaves, which are the major cause of fire incidents and further selling these leaves to various industrial units. These leaves are used in many products and purposes by industries.

In addition to these measures, the state government is executing an awareness campaign which consist 693 participant committees. The people doing exceptional work in this cause are being honoured. The prize money to sensitize these committees has been increased from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 10,000 per committee. 103 watch towers have been established in the state to keep vigil on forest fire. Through this scheme, local watchers are deployed on daily wages basis to report fire incidents. 86 water storage tanks have been constructed to use during fire incidents, besides fire line, controlled burning, identification of fire prone area and formation of fire control teams are major features of this cause.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.