100,000 community foresters to help green India
Agartala : India will engage 100,000 educated youths to execute an ambitious Green India Mission (GIM) which seeks to increase the country's forest cover to 33 percent from 20 percent within 10 years, says a top forest official.
P.J. Dilip Kumar, director general of India's forest department, says that in order to cope with climate change threats, the central and state governments have decided to raise new forest cover on five million hectares under the GIM.
"India has to increase its present forest cover area of 20 percent (out of the total geographical area) to 33 percent within the next 10 years," Kumar told IANS in an interview here.
"To facilitate planning, execution and monitoring of the GIM at the village level, one lakh cadre of community foresters (CCF) would be employed from among educated community youths," he said.
The Rs.46,000 crore ($9 billion) plan is one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change announced by the prime minister in June 2008.
The GIM document was prepared in June last year and the countrywide consultation is now on.
With 2011-12 being the preparatory year, GIM would be implemented by the Twelfth and Thirteenth Five Year Plans (2012-13 to 2016-2017 and 2017-18 to 2021-22).
"In view of the massive urbanisation and construction of houses and infrastructure, parks, grasslands, wetlands and open spaces across India would be in danger. Under the GIM, these areas would be protected," said Kumar. "Tough laws have to be enacted for everlasting protection of the open spaces."
According to the official, all parks, grasslands, wetlands and open spaces will be permanently demarcated and, in suitable cases, will be fenced by walls.
Kumar, who is also special secretary of the union forest and environment ministry, conducted a regional workshop on GIM here Sunday. Top forest officials of West Bengal and eight northeastern states took part in the day-long brainstorming session.
Before Agartala, such workshops were held in Bangalore, Jabalpur and Jaipur.
"One lakh Joint Forest Management (JFM) committees, thousands of self-help groups, gram panchayats and people's committees would be involved in the mission," he said.
Quoting the latest Forest Survey of India (FSI) report, released in 2009, the official said during 1997-2007, three million hectares of land had come under new forest cover across the country.
GIM also targets improvement of forest-based livelihood for about three million households living in and around forests.
"The mission is the first of its kind in India as it is aimed at the socio-economic development of tribals and other backward people and the protection of natural resources through the development of a participatory management of natural resources," he said.
According to the GIM document, on account of management of shifting cultivation areas under different agri-systems, the area under age-old 'jhum' or shifting cultivation had come down from 1.87 million hectares in 2003 to 1.2 million hectares in 2005-06.
Tribals in the hilly terrain of northeast and other areas have for generations been carrying out the traditional slash-and-burn method of cultivation, which has resulted in degradation of forest land and badly affected soil quality.
"The mission will support fallow management within the overall framework of socio-culturally valued, fast growing species managed by the communities," Kumar added.
GIM aims at enhancing carbon sinks in sustainably managed forests and other eco-systems, adaptation of vulnerable species and eco-systems to the changing climate and adaptation of forest-dependent locals in the face of climate variability.
"Satellite-based remote sensing and geo-imagery system would also be used for monitoring of GIM progress and implementation," he added.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)