A ground truthing exercise in the Aravallis has revealed that planting saplings don’t help increase green cover as their survival rate is only around 10-20% in the region.
Ground truthing is the process by which ground-level data are collected by officials by verifying old revenue records, remote sensing and aerial photography, satellite or infrared images.
The forest department now plans to adopt the natural regeneration model to increase green cover and remove the “dominant” Mexican mesquite tree species, also known as ‘vilayati kikar’, which restricts the regeneration of indigenous species.
The small evergreen spiny tree, which has the capacity to survive even in harsh environments, was introduced to the Ridge in the early 1870s by the British in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. “Although, it helped in increasing the top soil quality, it’s time to replace it with native species,” an environmentalist said.
The annual target for plantation has been reduced by 80% this season. Earlier, the forest department used to plant 6-7 lakh saplings a year. This year, it plans to plant only 1.5 lakh saplings.
The beginning of monsoon is the peak time for plantation. The rains ensure survival of the newly planted saplings.
Conservator of forest (south circle) MD Sinha said as the Aravallis have only 15-20 cm of soil depth on hill slopes and the region gets scant rain. “Hence, it is difficult to do plantation and maintenance,” he said.
“This year, we have a Rs 1.6 crore budget for plantation, which is less than 1% of Haryana’s annual budget. The plan is to restrict the human and animal interference in certain areas of the Aravallis so that those areas can develop a good forest cover. “Forests can go naturally, humans need not to interfere in the growth,” Sinha said.
A similar model has been successfully tried in certain parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, he said.
“The old Aravalli range used to have dense forest. However, rapid urbanization has destroyed it. This process of regeneration it will improve biodiversity in the region. Every district will adopt this model in 100 hectares this year. The area will be fenced off and animals will not be allowed to graze till trees in the area have grown to a certain height,” Sinha said.