As per the National Forest Policy 1988, the states except under hilly areas should envisage a minimum of 33% of their total geographical land under the forest cover to maintain decent environmental stability and ecological balance that are vital for the sustenance of plants, animals, and humans.
1) Telangana ku Haritha Haraam (TKHH)
After the formation of Telangana state, it was much needed to increase the state’s forest cover from 24% to 33%. Hence, this program was launched by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao in 2015. About 230 Crore seedlings were proposed to be planted in the State. Out of this, 130 crores seedlings were proposed to be planted outside the notified forest areas (10 crores within HMDA limits, and the remaining 120 Crores in the rest of the State). However, the Telangana government has planted 217 crore saplings across the state and due to which the forest cover has been increased to 3.67 percent. About 4573 crore rupees have been spent on the TKHH since its inception. This program is being covered under the two-fold strategy.
a) In notified forest areas: To rejuvenate the degraded forests, protect the forests from over-grazing, smuggling of goods, encroachment of lands, protection from fires, and intensive soil conservation measures through the watershed management.
b) Outside notified forest areas: This strategy has been undertaken by the decentralized steering committees right from the state level to the grassroots village level through massive plantations in road-side avenues, river and canal banks, barren hill, tank bunds, and foreshore areas, institutional premises, religious places, housing colonies, community lands, municipalities, industrial parks, etc. The government made further serious efforts towards this program by strengthening the existing Panchayat and Municipalities Acts. At the village level, Haritha Rakshana Committees were formed under the Chairmanship of Gram Sarpanch to monitor the plant saplings. Also, a unique feature of geo-tagging has been introduced to save the saplings.
2) Green India Challenge initiative
It is a brainchild of TRS Rajya Sabha MP Joginapally Santosh Kumar to plant saplings and increase the green cover across the country. Many celebrities including political leaders and film stars have participated in this initiative which created a massive impact on the mindset of people towards the planting of trees. His book ‘Vruksha vedam’ focuses on the relationship between man and nature. Recently, PM Modi lauded his initiative and felt that there will be an increase in people’s participation in environmental protection.
Since independence, only two national forest policies came into an effect – one in 1952 and the last in 1988. In June 2016, the draft policy was made by the Environmental ministry but the final version is awaited. The new policy should stress sustainable conservation, protection, management of forests, and safeguarding the interest of tribals. Both the center and states should equally protect and initiate new programs towards environmental protection as ‘Forests’ comes under the concurrent list.