Dilip Ghosh writes: A 45,000 crore rupees huge programme to increase the country’s green cover is going to be launched soon. The 10 year long programme named Green India Mission, GIM after a preparatory phase of one year will get going from 2012. Addressing a series of functions on the occasion of the World Environment Day on 5th June this year, the Minister for Environment and Forests, Shri Jairam Ramesh said that the target is to bring 5 million hectares of forest and non-forest land under green cover and improve the quality of green cover on another 5 million hectare of non-forest land.
Recalling late Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s initiative in 1985 to bring 5 million hectares of waste land under green cover every year, Shri Ramesh admitted, “ We are far behind from the original objective” and said that there should be realistic and credible targets this time. There is a difference between the old initiative and the GIM. The Minister said that there will be a fundamental shift in mindset from the traditional focus of merely increasing the quantity of forest cover, towards increasing the quality of forest cover and improving provision of ecosystem services. Unlike the earlier initiative, the GIM will be implemented by Gram Sabhas with the technical and managerial support of the forest personnel. Now money will directly go to the Gram Sabhas and not through forest departments of State Governments. The Minister said “The need for us is to ensure that it should be seen as a programme of local elected bodies.” He said, the restructured Joint Forest Management Committees, JFMCs would play an important role in this.
Again, there will be real time monitoring of forests under this program instead of just expenditure monitoring. The Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO will soon launch a series of satellites specially dedicated to monitoring the forest cover. The satellites will revolutionise the monitoring system and help make sensible conclusions about work and progress of forestry programs.
But, the GIM is not merely a plantation program. Its another important aspect is to eliminate poverty. It will address livelihood problems of about 15 million poor people. While addressing the livelihood problems of the poor people, it will also ensure implementation of the Forests Rights Act. Besides, under it, the community youth will be trained to maintain and take forward the fruits of investment in this mission. A senior official of the Ministry of Environment and Forests said, in forestry sector results are not seen in short term; they become apparent only in long term. He said,GIM’s impact could be seen not only in forest areas, but also in wetlands, urban areas, natural eco-systems and grasslands.
The government is hopeful of meeting the GIM’s targets in time as in the past few years the country’s green cover has been steadily rising. According to State of Forests Report 2009 of the Ministry which is based on satellite imagery up to 2007, in the preceding 10 years, India’s forest cover increased by 3.31 million hectares, showing an average 0.46% increase every year. At present, about 21.02% of the country’s geographical area is under green cover. This is a surely commendable achievement when many countries are losing sizeable chunks of forests; for example Brazil which is losing 2.5 million hectares of forests every year.
There is another reason for hope of meeting the GIM targets. Spurred by the need to become eco-friendly and to survive in harmony with the environment, a trend of going green is now fast catching up across the globe and it is reflected in the changing life style of people. India has enrolled itself to join this new trend and pass out with the best result possible. In fact, many of the country’s industrial houses have already initiated green drive. Some State Governments are also in the green mode. The Delhi Government has introduced ‘Energy Conservation Building Code to give clear instructions on construction of new government buildings.
The trend is also catching up with the public. In the country’s fashion industry, many designers now work on environment-friendly clothing and showcase their support for the ‘green’ cause during fashion weeks. Natural fabrics like hand-woven wool from shepherds, natural silks, recycled junk jewellry, organic knits, etc are being widely used. Fashion designers like Rohit Bal, cine stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra and sportsmen like Abhinav Bindra and M S Dhoni have joined various Green campaigns.
A shining example of going green has been set up by the villagers of Mawlynnon, situated 90 km away from the Meghalaya capital, Shillong . It has won the distinction of being the cleanest village in Asia. The village has over 80 houses of which every adult member is a green ambassador who keep his surroundings clean by doing simple voluntary service like sweeping the roads and lanes, watering the plants and cleaning the drains.
But, India is not only setting examples of going green but also continuing with fast economic growth. It is now the Government’s endeavour to have a balanced approach so that both the drives can go hand in hand. On this year’s World Environment Day, Environment and Forests Minister, Shri Ramesh released a United Nations EnvironmentProgramme, UNEP report on ‘Forests in a green economy’ in New Delhi. In his speech on the occasion, he said that with the rise in economic growth and population, the energy needs of the country are bound to grow. Keeping this in view, the government has adopted a “balanced approach” on its nuclear and other power programs. He added, ”Forest cover should be 33% in India. To accomplish this, area would have to be reclaimed from the sea while we increase the monitoring of the forest cover.” The UNEP report has called for a global investment of 40 billion dollars annually to bring down the deforestation rate to half of the present by 2030. India has heeded to the advice and making adequate investment to secure the future of its citizens as well as those of the globe.