Himachal forms 4.80 percent of India’s forests

Shimla, June 15 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh constitutes 4.80 percent of India’s total forests and the state’s cover has swelled by over 2,900 sq km in 24 years due to plantation programmes, an official said on Monday.

Out of the total geographic area of 55,673 sq km in the state, the forest comprises 37,033 sq km, which is 4.80 percent of the total forests in the country, an official of the state forest department said.

Quoting the latest Forest Survey of India report of 2013, he said the state had 14,683 sq km under green cover which was only 11,780 sq km in 1991.

He said plantation has been carried out on 29,745 hectares in the past two fiscals.

Saplings of broader leaves, wild fruit-bearing and medicinal plants are being given special priority during plantation drives.

To further expand the green cover, the state government has fixed a target of bringing 8,712.45 hectares of additional area under forests in this fiscal by spending Rs.45 crore.

The forest department aims to plant 100,000 saplings of “shahtoot”, “jamun”, “saru”, “shisham”, “spheda”, “pipal”, “deodar” and “neem” alongside roads constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna.

Workers under MGNREGS will be involved in the project.

In addition to this, he said, 45 lakh medicinal plants would also be planted.

Forest ponds have immense importance in maintaining the land humidity besides being helpful in extinguishing forest fires.

The ponds are associated with the livelihood of rural communities and catering to the water needs of wild animals.

A total of 100 forest ponds are being constructed during this fiscal whereas 405 ponds have been constructed across the state.

Foreign-aided projects are being effectively implemented in the state as well.

The World Bank-aided Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project’s amount has been enhanced from Rs.365 crore to Rs.630.76 crore and the term period has also been extended till March 2016.

The project is being implemented in 710 panchayats after bringing in 102 new panchayats under it. A total of Rs.60 crore is being spent during this fiscal in these panchayats.

The Himachal Pradesh Forest Eco-System Climate Proofing, a German Development Bank project of Rs.310 crore, has started recently in the Kangra and Chamba districts.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed for a grant of two million Euros under this project and the amount would be utilised on forest officials’ training programmes and development of local communities.

Likewise, the government has submitted the Forest Eco-system Management and Livelihood Project to the Japanese International Cooperation Agency for obtaining financial assistance.

The Rs.1,507 crore project would be implemented in 10 out of 12 districts.

The hill state is aptly called home to rich flora. The survey say out of the country’s total 45,000 flora species the state holds 3,295 species or 7.32 percent.

Ninety-five percent of the species are endemic to the state and characteristic of western Himalayan flora, while the remaining (150 species) are exotic, introduced in the last 150 years.

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