To stop the destruction of forests and increase its green cover to 33% as laid down in the national policy, the state forests department has launched a campaign to rope in villagers to voluntarily enable regeneration of forests.
It has distributed subsidised LPG cylinders and grants for biogas plants and stall fed and high value milch animals (as against scrub fed cattle) to around 40,000 families living on the periphery of forests to reduce the pressure on these green areas. It is also planting trees for increasing the green cover.
Maharashtra has around 15,500 villages located around forests where villagers depend on forests for firewood and fodder.
Maharashtra accounts for 9.36% of the country's total area and has 19.94% of geographical area under forest cover, as against the target of 33% under the National Forest Policy, 1988. In 2011-12, the geographical area under forests in the state was 61,358 sq km, down from 63,544 sq km in 1960-61.
The 'Harit Maharashtra' campaign, which was launched on January 26 across the state, will see members of joint forest management committees (JFMC) being involved in protecting and managing forests, voluntarily stopping illicit culling of trees and ensuring natural regeneration of seed and wood stock. It will also focus on soil and water conservation and stop cattle grazing in forests.
Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary, forests, said that around 12,000 villages in Maharashtra had active joint forest management committees. He added that these villages would see a campaign to regenerate forests through 'shramdaan' with support of forest guards and staff.
"The degraded forests which have been subjected to continued cutting and cropping of trees like teak ... will be protected. The good tree stock will be allowed to regenerate. The villagers will voluntarily protect them from cutting and grazing in return for LPG cylinders and milch animals," said Pardeshi. He added that people in the Tadoba wildlife sanctuary had resolved to keep poachers away.
The campaign saw Gandhian and social worker Anna Hazare distributed LPG connections to beneficiaries in Nashik circle.
Forests are the second largest land use in Maharashtra after agriculture. The state forest department statistics reveal that the area under encroachments in forests has increased from 80,108 hectare in 2005-6 to 86,213 hectare in 2011-12. A total of 14,574 cases of illicit tree felling have been registered in 2011- 12.
The state government plans to plant 100 crore trees of which 547.87 lakh saplings have been planted in 2013 and 702.65 lakhs will be planted in the monsoons in 2014.
Project 33% forest cover:
Trees to be planted as per the project- 100 crores
In 2013, saplings planted across state- 547.87 lakhs
In 2014, target for sapling plantation- 702.65 lkahs
Current aresa under forest cover in Maharashtra- 19.94 percent
In 2011-12, the geographical area under forests in the state- 61,358 sq km
In 1960-61, the geographical area under forests in the state- 63,544 sq km
In 2005-06, area under encroachments in forests in the state- 80,108 hectare
In 2011-12, area under encroachments in forests in the state- 86,213 hectares
In 2011-12, cases of illicit tree-felling registered in the state- 14,574