The Planning Commission has approved an ambitious scheme to plant forests in 2.42 lakh village panchayats to achieve the target of covering 33 per cent of India’s geographical area with trees.
The latest Forest Survey of India report states that only 23 per cent of the
country’s land was covered by trees as per surveys in 2007. Since 2003, the forest cover has increased by about three percent but the real concern is that dense forest cover is actually falling.
In a bid to arrest this trend, the Environment ministry had proposed a Central scheme of Rs 890 crore to have a ‘rich forest’ in each panchayat by 2012.
The Van Panchayat Yohna is, in fact, a revival of an ancient Indian concept of sacred groves in each village which acted as a barrier for warm winds and supplied essential medicinal extracts to villagers.
The yojana will have two components — one involving villagers and the other the corporate world. Under the first component, panchayats will identify land for planting trees and will be responsible for ensuring that the trees survive. In return, the villagers will get right to use minor produce from the forests.
Through the second component the government wants to involve the corporate world. “There are huge chunks of waste land available which the corporate world can be given for
developing”, said an environment ministry official.
The scheme received the Planning Commission’s approval on January 11 and will be introduced in the Cabinet soon.