Under the able guidance of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the state is steadily surging ahead on a green path, setting consecutive records with its tree plantation drives and making relentless efforts to increase vegetative cover to protect environment, ecology, and biodiversity. This year’s plantation drive was exceptional, with many innovative steps, including correctives to improve upon and avoid past years’ mistakes.
The entire world today is battling climate change. In fact, it is the biggest single threat before humanity, with widespread ramifications. Global temperatures rose about 1.1°C from 1901 to 2020. Warmer temperatures mean the usual weather patterns and cycles are disrupted, posing problems and risks not only to humans but all forms of life on this earth. However, climate change does not merely mean rising temperatures. It is also responsible for sea level rise, changes in weather patterns like drought and flooding, and much more. Things that are vital for life like water, energy, transportation, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems and human health are all experiencing the effects of a changing climate. There is water shortage, deserts are expanding, leaving less land for agriculture, and droughts adversely impacting the food chain.
There is clear evidence to show that biodiversity is already responding to climate change and will continue to do so. Direct impacts include changes in phenology (the behaviour and lifecycles of animal and plant species), species abundance and distribution, community composition, habitat structure and ecosystem processes. Sadly, some climate change is also impacting many plants and animal species that are virtually are species have disappeared altogether or are on the verge of doing so due to this.
So, what is the solution?
Apart from advocating measures like reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and using renewable sources of energy etc., experts also stress on afforestation or increasing the green cover. Notably, deforestation has also been responsible in a large measure for global warming. In India, Madhya Pradesh has the largest green cover area wise, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra. Next come Maharashtra, Karnataka and Meghalaya.
In Uttar Pradesh, according to the India State of Forest Report 2021 released by the Forest Survey of India, 9.23 per cent of the total geographical area has forest cover. In 2013 it was 8.82 per cent. According to the report, there has been an increase of 91 square kilometres in the total forest cover and tree cover during 2019. The government has now set a target of further enhancing this area to 15 per cent by 2030. For this, the government has set a target of planting 175 crore saplings in the next five years. The Yogi government has been embarking on intensive plantation during the rainy season since its first tenure. As a result, 101.49 crore saplings have been planted with the efforts of the government between 2017-18 and 2021-2022.
It is encouraging that in Uttar Pradesh, due to the relentless efforts of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the green cover has increased by 9.23 per cent in the past six years, as per the Forest Survey of India report. The Yogi government set a record of planting a total of 136.98 crore saplings in the state from 2017-18 to 2022-23.
According to Forest Survey of India report, there has been a significant increase in forest cover and tree cover in UP (together accounting for green cover). While there has been a total increase of 417 square kilometres (0.18 percent) in forest cover, an increase of 377 square kilometres (0.16 percent) has been recorded in tree cover so far. The total green area of the state has increased by 794 square kilometres with a total increase of 9.23 percent.
The ongoing plantation drive for the past six years has not only increased the green area of the state, but has also led to significant rise in the amount of wildlife in the state. The number of national animal tigers in the state has increased from 118 to 173 in the last five years, mentioned the official statement. Similarly, the number of elephants has also increased from 265 to 352. Not only this, there has also been a significant increase in the number of the state bird stork. In the last five years, the number of storks has increased from 13,670 to 17,586.
The Yogi government is laying special focus on planting saplings of different species in the state to eliminate environmental imbalance and achieve inclusive development. The government’s thrust is on planting trees like teak, rosewood, jamun (Indian black plum), Arjuna, guava, drumstick, amla (gooseberry), neem and bamboo.
As per chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s instructions, the work of planting industrial and timber trees is also underway. Fruit bearing, medicinal and aromatic, environmental and fodder, ornamental and other plants have been planted in every part of the state.
The Green Festival 2023
This year’s mega plantation drive in Uttar Pradesh was a massive mass movement, in which everyone, from the highest echelons of power right down to the commoners, was actively involved. The chief minister himself directed all state government departments and exhorted institutions and the general public to make efforts to achieve a target of planting 35 crore saplings.
July 1 to 7 were dedicated to creating mass awareness about the plantation programme while the actual plantation took place on July 22 and August 15. On July 22, 30.21 crore saplings were planted in the state. On August 15, 5.95 more saplings were planted, surpassing the target. The chief minister planted peepal, bargad and Pakad saplings, setting up an Amrit Vatika on the bank of River Gomti in Lucknow on Independence Day. Deputy chief minister Brijesh Pathak planted neem, mango and kadamb in the Amrit Vatika. UP forest minister Arun Kumar Saxena planted neem on DIET campus in Badaun, jamun sapling at Shaheed Smarak, Lucknow and chandan saplingon district magistrate office premises. State minister KP Malik planted maulshree at DM office in Baghpat and maulshree and mahogani in Kendriya Vidyalaya. All public representatives took part in the plantation.
Sudhir Kumar Sharma, PCCF, Government of UP told TreeTake: “This year’s plantation drive was way different from previous ones. Earlier, the plantation onus was on the forest department. But later, 26 other departments were roped in and involved to actively take part in the exercise. In all, now a total of 85 government departments are participating in the tree plantation campaign. Apart from this, all public representatives were also involved. A new dimension was almost 100% participation of the judiciary, for the first time. Schools were given half day off, so that the students and teachers could take part in tree plantation and did so enthusiastically. Six-monthly monitoring of the plantation has also been ensured, with data on the chief minister’s portal.”
Significantly, under Tree Plantation Campaign-2023, trees suited to the soil and climate of particular places were planted, like peepal, pakad, bargad, neem, imli, jamun, bel, sahjan, mango, mahua, har, baheda and amla etc. which are shade giving or have medicinal, environmental and other benefits.
“This year’s tree plantation drive was the biggest and the greatest so far, with many firsts to its credit. It was a kind of a huge and intensive mass movement with involvement of people from all walks of life, all sections and strata of society. The reason for this was the guidance from chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who apart from issuing instructions to government departments and officials concerned, made personal appeals to people, which made a big impact,” said Sanjay Srivastav APPCF, Social Forestry, UP.
“For the first time, a special cabinet meeting was called which deliberated on the issue for about one and a half hours. Secondly, all public representatives, from gram pradhans and zila parishad chiefs to MPs and MLAs were involved and participated proactively. The chief minister also held a webinar called Samvad in which about 1.5 lakh people, including public representatives, joined. There was full length discussion on the plantation programme and preparations and suggestions were also invited. The chief minister made a personal appeal for plantation on July 22 and August 15.
“Three meetings of ministers, in which forest minister Aruna Kumar Saxena also participated, were held to discuss the plantation drive and streamline the endeavour. Chief secretary Durga Shankar Mishra took a review of the preparedness for the drive with district magistrates, commissioners and additional principal secretaries. Officials were assigned duties on plantation days, with instructions to prepare a checklist and report to the chief secretary in the evening. Governor Anandiben Patel blessed the endeavour by planting a sapling in Mathura. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath opened the campaign by planting a sapling in Bijnor and another in Shukrataal, Muzaffarnagar. Deputy chief ministers Brijesh Pathak and Keshav Prasad Maurya planted saplings in Prayagraj.
“On plantation days, we organized about 70-80 programmes of VIPs and all passed off smoothly. Another new feature this year was the ‘Paudh Bhandara’ under which we provided free saplings to children, emphasizing upon them the need to plant trees as well as nurture them. We gave the slogan ‘Ped lagao, ped bachao’. The children sent us selfies with the saplings they had planted. Another new dimension was extensive use of technology to monitor plantation and later on, upkeep of the planted saplings. Geotagging helped keep an online check on plantation. We also launched Haritima, a mobile app for geotagging of plantation sites, monitoring and rapid appraisal of plantation sites etc. On plantation days, we constantly monitored the progress online through what is called the ‘monitoring ticker’,” Srivastava said.
UP. Gram Van (village forests) were set up in rural areas keeping in view environment conservation, increase in gram panchayat income, availability of fodder/ fuel and nutrition and enhancing villagers’ immunity. Peepal, pakad, gular, neem, sahjan, mango, bamboo, shahtoot, and sagaun etc were planted apart from fruit-bearing and timber-giving trees. In urban areas, Nandan Van were established with har, baheda, mahua, chironji, imli, neem, amaltas, bamboo, harsingar, chandan, sahjan, sarpgandha, karonda, and Ashok, apart from smaller shrubs, to make available a natural environment to urbanites where they may come close to nature. In every district, saplings medicinal trees, shrubs and herbs were planted to set up Ayush Van, like kaitha, balam kheera and gudhal etc.
To inculcate the value to tree plantation and love for nature among students, a Bal Paudh Bhandara was held for students of class 6 to 8.The students were given grafts of fruit-bearing trees like mango, guava, anar and lemon etc The students planted them at home and on school campuses and uploaded selfies with them. “I planted five saplings in my house on July 22 and August 15. I am enthusiastic about the state government’s tree plantation programme because I have read that green cover is very important to save mother earth. Trees help to check global warming; they give out oxygen while taking in carbon monoxide and also check soil erosion. They also provide natural habitat for wild animals and birds. So, one should not only plant trees but also take care of them,” said Tanuj, a student of Class 7.
Trees were also planted alongside expressways and state and national highways to create green belts. Vacant land of government departments, educational institutions, judicial and medical campuses, parks, gram panchayat land, railways and defence forces, industrial units and cooperative societies was also used to plant trees.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior forest official said: “As per the Forest Survey of India report, the green cover in Uttar Pradesh (tree cover + forest cover) increased by 80,000 hectares between 2015 and 2021, amply demonstrating that the efforts are yielding dividends. This year’s plantation was a mass movement, involving all. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke about it in Mann ki Baat.
As there was little rain from August 1 to 7, which was the Van Mahotsav week, the focus on mobilizing people and making them aware about the need for green cover and environment protection. On July 22 and August 15, plantation was carried out on a mega scale. So far as the rural areas were concerned, there was micro planning this year, at the level of gram panchayat. Through this micro planning, it was it was found how much land was available for plantation in each village panchayat and what types of trees were suitable for plantation there. Accordingly, the saplings were provided to them through the Gram Vikas Adhikari. It is hoped that this year’s plantation drive will yield great results,” he added.
Another official in the ministry said the plantation drive going on for the past six years had not only led to an increase in the green cover in the state but the number of tigers and other animals had also gone up significantly. There was also a marked increase in the number of state bird sarus. This had been possible because of the state government’s concerted efforts towards more tree plantation.
However, even as Uttar Pradesh surges ahead on its remarkable green journey, it still has miles to go. Due to urban areas sprawling and high rises increasing, the government must popularise balcony/terrace gardening and promote vertical gardens. Just as a water harvesting system is a must for every newly constructed house, a small green patch must also be made mandatory for each house being built. Slum dwellers should also be encouraged to plant shrubs and trees in whatever space is available to them. Greenery along dividers and under flyovers should be ensured not only in posh but all areas. Last but not the least, notwithstanding the thrust on plantation, random felling of trees and any loss of green cover should be strictly checked.
Total plantation done this year
Sheesham -45, 275,779
Saplings planted through culture- 41040376
Saplings made available by horticulture and other depts1- 7031,018