The government's blanket ban on green felling imposed in 1986 was historical for conserving and safeguarding the forest wealth, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh said Thursday.
"Then prime minister Indira Gandhi was concerned about the green felling in Himalayan region, particularly in Himachal Pradesh," he said.
"She assigned me the responsibility of saving the forests when 'van mafia' or illegal felling was very active in the state," the chief minister said at a public meeting at Dumehari Tikkari village in Solan district while launching a state-level sapling plantation drive.
"Though the state had to suffer a huge monetary loss (with ban on felling), our government was endeavouring to preserve forests and it was rather a matter of delight that we saved lakh of trees."
Virbhadra Singh, who is at helm for the sixth term, said earlier the trees used to be felled for making cartons for packaging apples but viewing its adverse impact on forests, the government decided that all type of fruits would henceforth be packaged in corrugated cartons. "This decision has helped in saving more than one lakh trees."
The chief minister said the main objective of celebrating the state-level 'van mahotsava' was to make people aware of the benefits of forests and to spread awareness about the global warming and climatic change.
"I am proud to say that the Great Himalayan National Park (in Kullu district) has been declared as a Unesco heritage site which would not only give boost to tourism industry but would be constructive enough for generating employment and self-employment to the local people," he said.
He said in this fiscal the forest department aims to plant saplings on 17,500 hectares of land roping in children from around 3,000 schools for the drive. "We have made a provision of Rs.3 crore for planting 45 lakh medicinal plants this fiscal."
The chief minister planted a sapling of pomegranate on the occasion.
Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri said 71 forest nurseries had been re-opened and about 13 lakh saplings have been reared in them.
He said lantana weed would be removed from 1,000 hectares in this fiscal.
Bharmouri said out of total target of plantation in 17,700 hectares, 25 percent of the area would be brought under fruit plants.
According to the Forest Survey of India report of 2011, out of the state's geographical area of 55,673 sq km, 3,224 sq km is under very dense forests, 6,381 sq km under moderately dense forests and 5,074 sq km under open forests.
Due to massive afforestation drives by the department, the forest cover in the state has increased from 11,780 sq km in 1991 to 14,679 sq km in 2011.