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Maharashtra's Green Army and Tree Plantation Drive - A fantastic initiative that needs to be encouraged

Author: Lavanya Shivashankar
Publication: Myind.net
Date: October 5, 2018
URL:      https://www.myind.net/Home/viewArticle/maharashtras-green-army-and-tree-plantation-drive-a-fantastic-initiative-that-needs-to-be-encouraged

Sometime in June of 2018, mud pits began to be dug across the length and breadth of Maharashtra. The state's green cover was at 20% and the aim was to increase it to 33%. Over 3 years, 50 crore saplings were drawn up to be planted, and over time, this was to be extended to 400 crores. The plantation drive could only be done in July of each year, so the Forest Department was slowly gearing up to meet expectations.

These mud pits were being dug up all over the state, particularly along highways, railway tracks, and temples, around water sources in the jungle and across government schools in Maharashtra. Thousands of school kids joined in selecting fruiting and flowering trees in their schools and homes, so that their favorite fruit saplings would be available to them. Through 2016 & 2017, they had been watering and pruning their plants to ensure that there were fruits and flowers for them to show to whoever came to visit.

Many of their older siblings had registered across the state to be a part of the Green Army. Their pledge was singular - they were going to plant a tree and also nurture and make sure that it didn't die in the two years they were assigned to look after it. Green warriors were to know which plants were being ordered by their local nurseries, schools and homes, so they would guide others to stick to the broader plan.

*Malati was one such student volunteer of the Sai Bharat Vidyalaya in Jalgaon. Along with other pig tailed kids, she had skipped to register herself as a Green Army volunteer, and swelled numbers to over 53 lac. She had firmly instructed her kid brother and sister to make sure all of their saplings were standing upright and green every day when they left home, and when they returned from school. It had fallen on Malati to make sure that she got her other friends from different schools registered, so that all of their homes, and the homes of the kids in nearby villages were flush with saplings. She made sure the nursery close to her house was stocked, and the saplings being planted in public spaces, were all the same. The next year targets are over a crore of volunteers. Every pig tailed kid counts!

The Green Army volunteers also registered through a website, only a beginning in integrating technology in this effort. Year 1 targets were 4 crores of saplings for Maharashtra. With spirited competition from other states, the state ended at 5.4 crores saplings planted. Stakes were raised to 13 crore in July of 2018, and 33 crores for July 2019. These numbers looked huge, but the state finally ended up at 14.5 crore saplings planted. As in all cases, this was tackled through a combination of technology, and good old-fashioned leg work.

The Forest Department did the lion's share of the work, not only digging pits in advance, but also planning for over 25 crores of saplings, through 2500 of their nurseries. The plants were a mix of Jan aushadhi (medicinal herbs), water-loving (bamboo), shade-loving and flowering and fruiting trees. As demand for saplings came in through the various routes, these were quickly shipped to areas like Malati's school, to her house, to jungle lodges, to Railway yards throughout the country, and in every case, photographed and geo-tagged for tracking.

The forest department was helped by an app called MyPlant, through which entities like temples, mathas & religious institutions ordered over 3.3 lac saplings for their own premises, and to distribute among bhaktas and visitors. A surprising 12.5 thousand saplings were placed through the Hello Forest helpline, while over 2.5 crore saplings came to be placed through the Rope Aple Daari Sapling at Your Doorstep Scheme.

A few weeks ago a procession reached a village in Osmanabad district. A trolley and tractor full of plants had reached a small village in the district. The village headman had contacted the Forest Department, and confirmed that their pits were ready to receive their precious load. Around 2000 plants, a mix of local fruits, flowers, and medicinal herbs, had reached the village with the trolley.

Heads of the village's three temple trusts came out to welcome the village headman's relatives who were safeguarding the plants' transportation. Green army volunteers poured in from all corners, jostling to see which fruits and flowers had been approved and sent this time. The headman appeared with a few lackeys carrying garlands and sweets. The plants meant greenery, soil retention, plenty of flowers and fruits, a sort of return to better times.

The man in charge of the tractor and trolley contingent, was hauled off to a make-shift stage where he made a brief, halting, and mildly surprised speech, his head bowed under the weight of the garlands. Later, when the planting was over and everyone sat eating sweets, the team made a swift photographic diary of the planting.

Across the border, in Telangana, a similar exercise had been happening, and their loudspeakers were making a din. Their targets were ambitious as well. 230 crores of saplings were going to be planted, and 81 crores had already been planted, so the green cover would rise from 24% to 33%. The ambitious CMs and the friendly competition between their Forest Departments, seemed to be working for the area.

* Author’s Note: Malati is a composite of a few girls whose stories we heard regarding this activity, the name of her school has been changed too.


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