Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Yojana (RKVY) is funding afforestation project in Punjab, which is part of the crop diversification project to help farmers shift from the wheat-paddy cycle to other crops. The project has been designed for the green revolution states, including Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
RKVY has been funding different crop diversification projects; it is for the first time that it is funding an afforestation project. In the first year of the programme, the union agriculture ministry which runs the RKVY has set a target of 20,000 hectares for Punjab for shifting agricultural land under wheat and paddy to forest at a cost of Rs 30 crore.
As part of the project, colonial eucalyptus and poplar saplings are to be planted on agricultural land and the state forest department is supplying the saplings. Contrary to the target of 20,000 hectares, the forest department could supply saplings for only 5,700 hectares.
The forest department has sought demands for the saplings from farmers and according to additional principal chief conservator of forests RK Luna, the response is huge. "A total of 4,040 farmers have come forward to adopt afforestation which is a good response keeping in view the short notice given by the forest department," adds Luna.
For colonial eucalyptus farmers have demanded 59 lakh saplings whereas the department could supply only 28 lakh saplings and for poplar a demand of 9.9 lakh saplings was received by the forest department while the department is supplying nine lakh saplings.
Reacting to reports that growing eucalyptus would further lead to reduction in the water table, Luna said it consumed much less water as compared to paddy. "The amount of biomass eucalyptus produces is huge in comparison to the water it consumes," adds Luna.
He said the plant gives huge benefit in waterlogged areas of Punjab and as per a project of NABARD, eucalyptus saplings are planted in waterlogged areas.