Punjab forest and wildlife minister Chunni Lal Bhagat on Sunday said that under the Greening Punjab Mission, forest cover in the state would be increased from present 7% to 15%. The department has fixed a target of planting 4.75 crore saplings during 2013-14.
The minister, while presiding over a meeting of the department to review the progress of the mission, issued instructions to achieve this target. He said the national forest policy envisaged 33% of the country's area under forest and tree cover for safeguarding the environment and ecology of the nation.
Punjab, being a predominantly agricultural state, has less than 7% of its area under forest cover, resulting in severe environmental and ecological degradation and also rapidly rising pollution levels in the air, water and soil, he added.
Bhagat asked the officers to ensure proper care and nurturing of saplings being planted by the department under the mission.
DS Bains, principal secretary, told the minister that the department had found 9,800-hectare area in 9,145 villages and 3,021-hectare area in institutions which could be utilised for plantation of saplings to achieve the state's goal of 15% forest cover by 2020.
Prominent among other present at the meeting included chief parliamentary secretary Chowdhary Nand Lal, principal chief forest conservator HS Gujral, MD, forest corporation, MP Rai and chief wildlife warden Dhirender Singh.