A golden chapter in the greening initiative of Telangana started with lakhs of people from a cross-section of the society contributing voluntarily to the newly-established ‘Telangana Haritha Nidhi’ (Green Fund) and becoming financial partners of the ongoing afforestation programme, ‘Telanganaku Haritha Haram’ (Green Garland for Telangana).
It all started in 2015 when Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao envisioned the ‘Haritha Haram’ and announced it after days of intensive intellectual churning to etch innovative and sustainable features so as to involve all sections of the society, across rural and urban areas and to cover spaces outside forest as well. The goal is to enhance the forest cover to 33% of the geographical area of the State.
Plantation drives in themselves aren’t new; States across the country have launched similar initiatives to counter global warming due to excessive deforestation. However, most have achieved little success, mostly owing to an absence of comprehensive design, post-planting care, inconsistent approach and most importantly, positioning the initiative as a supply-driven government programme.
In contrast, Telanganaku Haritha Haram has distinguished itself by following a people-centric and demand-driven model that is fully backed by political commitment. It follows an ‘end-to-end implementation model’ that encompasses raising nurseries and plantations, protecting the plant with a tree guard, watering, watch and ward arrangement and replacement of casualties.
The plantation projects are geo-tagged and tracked on an online platform and are subject to independent evaluation. The key players are all local bodies with the administrative and technical backing provided by government departments. As a result, any vacant land is a potential candidate for plantation. The plantation strategy is twin-track, to plant both inside and outside the forest.
Urban Forest Parks
The highlight of this intervention is ‘Urban Forest Parks’. In the wake of rapid urbanisation, forest blocks near urban areas became most vulnerable to encroachments as well as tree felling. This “threat” is converted to “opportunity”. At 179 locations, 1.77 lakh acres of forest land were evaluated on a scale of vulnerability. Based on this threat perception, their boundary is protected either by a perm-anent wall, a chain-link fence or by a 2x2 metres trench.
A range of developmental activities are implemented by taking up high-density plantations and inspection paths are modified so that they can serve as walking tracks as well. Basic facilities like washrooms are created. Part of the area inside the Urban Forest Parks is opened to the public for a small gate fee, creating a stake for the local community. This resulted in people feeling ownership of the forest and becoming partners in its development and protection.
With regard to plantations outside the forest, the strategy rests on four pillars — Green Budget, local nurseries, watering tankers and holding elected representatives accountable. For this, mandatory provisions were created in the newly-enacted statutes governing gram panchayats and municipalities, with the most important points being the compulsory spending of 10% of their budget on plantation activities called the ‘Green Budget’, ensuring a minimum of 80% survival of saplings, failing which the elected representatives are liable for removal from office.
This legislative framework backed by Green Budget resulted in the establishment of over 15,000 nurseries in villages and municipal wards, making planting material available at the doorsteps leading to development of village parks (Palle Prakruthi Vanam), avenue plantations all along rural and urban roads and plantations inside homesteads. Needless to mention that greening institutions is key for all government departments. With the onset of rains, families demand plants for their homesteads and institutions for community plantations. With the involvement of all sections of society, Haritha Haram has blossomed beyond the boundaries of government and is now a ‘People’s Movement’. Interesting spin-offs of Haritha Haram are people starting to gift plants instead of bouquets. Birthdays of the Chief Minister and important leaders are celebrated by taking up massive plantations.
Given the phenomenal success of Haritha Haram, the Chief Minister announced yet another path-breaking initiative, ‘Telangana Haritha Nidhi’, a dedicated green fund which aims at developing plantation infrastructure as well as projects on a much bigger scale, providing sustainability in the long run. Free from budget control, it will enhance the green cover and forest cover of the State.
Hyderabad has been awarded the “Tree City of the World” by Arbour Day Foundation & Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations for two consecutive years 2020 and 2021.
- 7.7% increase in Green Cover since 2015
- 6.85% increase in Forest Cover since 2015
- 14.52% increase in Tree Cover since 2015
- The total increase in the forest cover roughly translates to an increase of 3,36,000 acres.