BHUBANESWAR: The Forest and Environment Department has targeted to take up plantation over a staggering 20,000 hectare (ha) along the banks of Mahanadi river this year as part of the ambitious Mission Green Mahanadi project.
It has identified at least 1,303 villages lying close to Mahanadi, considered lifeline of the State, where plantation would be carried out post monsoon, in July.
Since a substantial chunk of the land in the villages is likely to be in private ownership, the department has decided not to acquire any private land. It would rather disburse seedlings to locals and handhold them to raise the plantations. The project, which was taken up as a cue after Madhya Pradesh Government went for a massive seven crore sapling plantation on a single day last year, aims to conserve Mahanadi from the vagaries of soil erosion, siltation and reduced flow of water.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced Mission Green Mahanadi project last year in November. The project holds special significance for the Government which is locked in a battle with Chhattisgarh over Mahanadi water sharing.
The project would be launched along Mahanadi and its two tributaries Tel and Ib rivers in the first phase. As many as 19 forest and wildlife divisions in about 13 districts will be covered in the project
As part of the action plan, the department has targeted to distribute about one crore seedlings this year. It has also identified NGOs who can support the programme which would be implemented in a de-centralised mode.
While nurseries are being developed for the purpose, the Divisional Forest Officers have already submitted their plans to District Rural Development Agency (DRDAs) which have approved the same. The plantation would be taken up as part of the MGNREGA programme.Apart from soil conservation and water recharging, the mega plantation project will be able to create a huge carbon sink in the State.
A major challenge for the department, however, would be to convince the villagers to allow their land for plantation but it is trying to rope in local intellectuals, youth and grassroots organisations to make it expansive.
“Villagers would be requested to partner in the programme. The department which will provide the seedlings is working closely with the grassroots organisations in this regard,” said Chief Conservator of Forests (Afforestation) Abhay Kant Pathak.
The department is mounting a campaign to sensitise the villagers since their livelihood and future would be dependent on Mahanadi’s life term.
Pathak says the locals would be free to choose the fruit species to grow in their land and reap the benefits. Farmers would be requested to provide bunds and unutilised areas for raising the plantations.
For the first year, the Government has earmarked a budget of `21 crore and for the second, `29 crore.