Afforestation drives yet to take firm root in state
The issue assumes great significance when the state is staring at one of its worst droughts in the coming summer after deficient rainfall
KOCHI: Expressing concerns about environmental problems in the state, popular actor Salim Kumar had once said that if at least a half of the trees planted as part of afforestation drives in the past 10 years survived, Kerala would have been a dense forest. The statistics available with the Social Forestry Department underscores his notion considering the fact that the state had planted around 4.5 crore saplings in the past five years and spent a sum of Rs 52.96 crore for afforestation drives in the past six years, but scientifically maintaining the saplings still remains on paper. This assumes great significance when the state is staring at one of its worst droughts in the coming summer after deficient rainfall.
If statistics are anything to go by, a host of steps have to be done to increase the survival rate of the saplings being planted in the state every year. The statistics show that the state had planted around 4.57 crore saplings in the last six years and spent Rs 52.96 crore for the afforestation drives in last six years.
Though there is no official statistics related to the survival rate of saplings available with the department, a department-level random survey conducted last year claims that around 63 per cent of saplings had survived. However, environmental activists say that the survival rate put forth by the department is an exaggerated one given the plight of the saplings planted over the years.
Speaking to ‘Express’, a senior Social Forestry Department official said that though the department has entrusted the task of protecting the saplings with the Local Self-government Department and the Education Department, a lot more has to be done to ensure or increase the survival rate of the saplings. Since climate change is hitting closer to home than previously expected, the afforestation has critical role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem especially to deal with depleting rainfall in the state.
Besides, the department is distributing the samplings at a subsidized rate of Rs 2 for general public and 50 paise for students. The monitoring of samplings planted has to be strengthened and measures have to be taken to scientifically manage the tree saplings. The only will the desired result be produced, he said.
Jayakumar Sharma, ACF, Social Forestry Department, said a committee formed at the school/college level with a head teacher, ward member, student representative, section forest officer and PTA member as its members and another committee formed at the LSG level with the panchayat secretary, agriculture officer, forester, panchayat member and NGO members as its members has been entrusted with the protection of the tree saplings in their areas concerned.
Though there is widespread criticism against the department in connection with the poor survival rate of saplings, the local varieties of wood available with the hundreds of saw mills in the state belonged to the rich tree wealth of the state. The criticisms stem from the absence of proper records on the utility and removal of trees from the private owned properties in the state, he added.