The department of environment and forest will plant 64 lakh saplings across the state on Honourable CM J Jayalalitha’s 64th birthday on Feb 24th as part of the massive aforestation drive to make the state green and cool, according to CV Sankar, principal secretary, DoE&F. According to sources in Poes Garden, the chief minister’s residence, directives have been issued to the party cadre not to have any ostentatious celebrations in connection with her birthday.
Mr Snkar added – This is going to be a win-win situation for all stake holders which include farmers, land owners, farm workers and general public. Our objective is to meet the national target which stipulates that one-third of the total land mass should have green cover. The forest cover in Tamil Nadu is just 21.78% which we want to increase to 30% over the next seven years.
He said scientifically selected ten crore indigenous saplings would be planted over the next seven years. The species have been selected taking into account their suitability and adaptability to the specific climate in the state. We will be hiring private lands also for the aforestation drive so that the land owners and farm workers will get increased income over the years, he said. The State government has set apart Rs686 crore exclusively for the forestation drive which will be a continuous project.
According to the environment secretary, 140,000 hectares of additional land have to be brought under forest cover to meet the green cover target.Since urbanization and development activities have shrunk the available land area, the government is left with no alternative other than soliciting private land holdings, he said.
Dr Nanditha Krishna, director, CPR Environmental Education Centre, Chennai, said dairying and poultry industries have robbed the state of its forest cover. Our studies prove that the forest cover in Tamil Nadu has come down to 17% and this is a cause for concern. What is more disturbing is the fact that the area specified as dense forest has shrunk to single digit. Areas identified as open forest need not be forests in the true sense. Any areas with green cover are termed as open forest and hence we need more and more green cover in Tamil Nadu, said Dr Nanditha.
She said studies by the CPREEC have found that the number of sacred groves, which are repositories of the state’s biodiversity, have been recklessly destroyed in the name of development and industrialization.