Two crore saplings to be planted in Maharashtra’s afforestation drive

Mumbai, June 30 (IANS) An drive by Maharashtra to increase green cover will be launched on Friday by planting two crore saplings across the state, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said here.

The event, kickstarting the government’s ambitious project to plant 50 crore saplings in the state over the next three years, will also begin the weeklong Forest Festival (Vanamahotsav), he said.

The afforestation drive will be inaugurated by Governor C. V. Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray along with 3,500 students at the five-hectare Mahim Nature Park, Muntangiwar said.

The government has already finalized at 65,674 sites in the state and created a bank of over 5.32 crore saplings for distribution to the people, with instructions that nobody should go back without a sapling.

“Plant nurseries will be developed in each village in the state for which funds will be made available through District Planning Committee. This will ensure ready availability of saplings throughout the next three years,” Mungantiwar said.

Aiming to cover forest and non-forest regions with public participation, he said already the people have responded hugely and spontaneously, and shall take part in a ‘Selfie With Tree’ contest with exciting prizes.

The Forest Department has readied around 3.55 crore pits across the state for the plantation drive from Friday. To ensure proper preservation and maintenance of the saplings, one family per 1,000 trees shall be provided employment under the Employment Guarantee Scheme, the minister added.

Around five million (50 lakhs) saplings will be planted – and maintained – by government employees all over the state for which they will be officially given half-day off on Friday.

Defence authorities will carry out similar afforestation drives at their units in Mumbai at Colaba, Kalina and Kandivali, besides other areas under its jurisdiction in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa.

The government plans to set up a million-strong ‘Green Army’ of students drawn from the 89,000 schools in the state to create awareness of ecology and preserving greenery.

–IANS

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Q. NAJMI /AMumbai.

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