Around a decade back, the Machal hills, situated some 20 km from the city at the border of Dhar and Indore districts, were mostly barren with a few stunted trees dotting the landscape.
But now, thanks to a sustained plantation drive by the forest department, the 500 hectares of Machal hills have become green with tree cover and boasts a large deer and neelgai population that have made it their home.
During the course of the last seven to eight years, over two lakh saplings, mostly teak and of local variety, have been planted and around 78% of them are flourishing.
Since 2007-08, the department has been planting anywhere between 25,000 and 50,000 saplings a year, and this year too there are plans to plant 25,000 saplings for which the ground has already been prepped with holes.
Chief conservator of forest (CCF), Indore, RR Okhandiyar credits the program’s success to two things - fencing of the plantation area and involvement of local villagers in preservation efforts.
“Earlier, the forest department used to dig a trench around the plantation to prevent cattle for entering the area, but within months the trench got filled up with soil allowing cattle to enter and destroy the nascent plants. Now we have wire-fencing around the plantations. Also, the local villagers, through the Joint Forest Management Societies, have been made partners of the plantation. The society is given money to protect the plantation and they also get income from the fodder that now grows there due to the tree cover,” the CCF said.
The department fences off 30 to 40 hectares of land and plants before the onset of monsoon.
Survival of these plants solely depends on rain water, and no additional water is used. If there is prolonged shortage of water, as there was in 2009, most of the saplings perish.
Radheyshyam, the chowdikar of Machal plantation area, said there has been a slow but steady change in the area.
“The entire area looks beautiful, especially after the first monsoon showers, while earlier the barren hills were an eyesore. Also, we are getting fodder for our cattle. More importantly, the temperature of the area has come down due to the trees,” said Radheyshyam.
He said the entire village is behind him and they prevent anyone from cutting the fence and destroying the plants.
“We understand the importance of the plantation. It has changed our life,” he said.