PATNA: Forest cover in Bihar has increased to 12.86 per cent even as extensive afforestation campaign was on to achieve the target of 15 per cent by 2017, state forest and environment minister P K Shahi said today.
"We are on course to achieve forest cover target of 15 per cent of land area in Bihar by 2017 going by the present coverage at 12.86 per cent," he said in the legislative Assembly while replying to a debate on his department's demand for expenditure of Rs 214.24 crore for the current fiscal.
"Bihar had been left with only seven per cent forest cover at the time of bifurcation of the state nearly 14 years ago," Shahi said adding former chief minister Nitish Kumar had launched an initiative to expand forest and green cover to 15 per cent of land area, a target which his department hopes to achieve by 2017.
He said his department has launched several schemes towards tree plantation and provided various incentives to make afforestation drive a social and community programme at the grassroots level.
Legislators would be provided saplings as per their demand so that more saplings could be planted on available land, the Forest and Environment Minister said.
The Forest and Environment department has also undertaken schemes for soil and water conservation and put in place mechanisms to ensure the quality of forest cover in Bihar, Shahi said.
He said under convergence of works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), its funds would be used for plantation of trees.
He, however, rued shortage of manpower in his department to implement various schemes, but said recruitment for vacant posts would be done soon.
Shahi said the state government was committed to protection and conservation of wildlife in Bihar and added the number of tigers has increased to 22 in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in West Champaran district which also has other animals like rhinoceros, deer and leopard.
The House passed the department's Rs 214.24 crore demand for expenditure in 2014-15 by voice vote amid a walk out by the opposition BJP MLAs.