Green India Initiative: A Journey Of Thousand Miles
A team of scientists from Wildlife Institute of India ponder on the green initiatives taken by various state governments, their actual efficacy and potential ways to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change through forest restoration.
Climate change is making the wettest days wetter, heightening flood risks.
This summer in Chennai, locals were praying for some rain; in Mumbai, Gujrat, Bihar, and Assam, people were reeling under a deluge. Long ago, these extreme disparities may have been solely blamed on nature’s vagaries, but now science has established that human-induced climate change is playing a major role. The Year 2019 has clearly indicated the repercussion of our wrong deed and warned the human being that even the worst scenario is waiting for them in the near future if we would not consider our fault. Climate change, caused by emissions from industries and other human activity, is making the world warmer, disrupting rainfall patterns and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events. No country is immune to these forces, but India is particularly vulnerable.
There is enormous potential in mitigating climate change through forest restoration. India made a number of promises that would lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, or mitigation, and actions to adapt to living in a warmer world, or adaptation. India also promised an additional carbon sink — a means to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by the year 2030. The additional increase in carbon sinks, as recommended can be achieved by restoring impaired and open forests; afforesting wastelands; agro-forestry; through green corridors, plantations along railways, canals, and others.
For Increasing the Green cover in the country, recently the GOI released a total of 66,000 crores of CAMPA fund to the States and Union Territories. India as a Union took this problem seriously and came forward to fulfill its commitment. As mentioned, India is a union of States and any success depends upon the team work of all the states and UTs. Contribution of each state and UTs towards mitigating climate change is a must and should be taken seriously. Recently several state governments across the country had initiated plantation drives to combat climate change and proved themselves as true contributors. The Uttar Pradesh government planted 22 crore seedlings as a plantation drive recently and recorded their name in Guinness book of world record. The Maharastra Government has also planted 21 crore plants in the last 3 years and has planned for the next 33 crore trees in the near future. Chattisgarh also proved their sincerity and planted 10 crore trees and has committed for the next 7 crores. On July 2, 2017, the Madhya Pradesh government had carried out a 12-hour drive to plant 6.67 crore saplings in the banks of river Narmada in order to create a Guinness World Record entry. Several other state governments have also contributed to such a mission. It is a wonderful move if it somehow contributed to a green future. But one should mind that while we get such type of superb news only on the inaugural day by the concerned ministries/departments, no further details are provided about the status of the planted trees in the future. No data is available about the survival percentage, growth rate, mortality of the planted one. Infact, no one knows if planted tree exists or not that had their entry in Guinness book of world record.
In India, according to IMD data released by the statistics ministry, average temperatures have increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius between 1901-10 and 2009-18. At an annual level, this may seem trivial, but projections deeper into the future paint a more alarming picture. For instance, the World Bank estimates that, if climate change continues unhindered, then average temperatures in India could reach as high as 29.1° C by the end of the century (up from 25.1° C currently).
New Opportunity for Green India to mitigate climate change
This is the high time for the states to prove them vis-à-vis their contribution towards making India green in a true sense. Most of the Indian States have a very low percentage of dense forest and the frequency of open and moderate forest is comparatively large. The state government can use the released CAMPA fund for proper restocking of the open and moderate forest. Proper planning and true effort would convert the poor stocked forest into the well-managed one and would enhance the carbon sequestration potential of the Indian forest.
Open forest in Jharkhand, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh is 50 percent, whereas, in Odisha Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Uttrakhand It is 46%, 46%, 30% and 25% respectively. If we see the allocation of CAMPA funds by the central government in the financial year 2019-20 then Odisha is the biggest beneficiary State under such scheme (5933.8 Crore). Other states who were allotted a great share in the total funds are Chhattisgarh (5791.70 Crore), Madhya Pradesh (5196.69 Crore), Jharkhand (4158.02 Crore), Maharashtra (3844.24 Crore) and Telangana (3110.38 Crore). Huge financial support has been provided by the Central Government and now it is the responsibility of the state government to utilize this fund very efficiently. The given data clearly shows that there is a great opportunity for states to enhance the condition of the fragmented forest. In the present scenario, very less fallow land is available with most of the states to convert it into the new forest due to the high intensity of mineral extraction and other development purposes. The above-mentioned states having a large area under forest has the best chance to enhance the condition of open and moderately dense forest into dense and very dense one by restocking through scientific means.
More to be done:
In Punjab the Government has launched an app “i-Hariyali”, to intensify the public participation in plantation activity, which has shown its tremendous impact. Through this app, the government can monitor the status of the planted tree due to its geo tagging with the app. On the same, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has launched the mobile app, “mHariyali”. This app is also aimed to encourage Public engagement in planting trees and other such Green drives. People can now upload information/photos of any plantation done by them. This app will also enable nodal officers to periodically monitor the plantation.
The state forest department should also include the technology to get a real picture of the plantation initiative. Plantation by the forest department should be geo tagged and the real-time status of the planted tree must be shared on the public domain to enhance the credibility of the move towards green India. By such initiatives, Central Government would also be in a position to track the value of the allocated money for such purpose.
Dr. Ruchi Badola : Ruchi is a Senior Scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Her area of interest lies with Eco development Planning and Public participation in Wildlife conservation.
Dr. Syed Ainul Hussian – He is a Senior Scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. He has worked on several Wild creatures such as Otter, Shanghai Deer, Elephant, Tiger, and several others. His area of interest lies in Biodiversity Conservation and Wildlife Habitat Management.