At a time the Maharashtra government is facing heat from residents and activists over cutting of trees for constructing Mumbai’s first underground metro rail service, Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has said the loss of green cover would be compensated by planting 100 times more trees than the number felled.
“The Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) has ordered the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to compensate for the loss of green cover by plantation of 100 times the number of trees chopped for the project,” he said on Thursday.
The MMRCL has planned cutting over 4,200 trees for the Rs 23,000 crore Colaba-Bandra-Seepz metro service. It includes chopping of 3,130 trees in the ecologically sensitive Aarey Milk Colony for building a car depot for the service.
Acknowledging the loss of green cover for the Metro project, the forest minister said his department had been insisting on an intense replantation initiative to make up for the loss. “The CM has issued directives in this regard to the MMRCL,” he said.
“The government has set a target of planting one crore trees in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region alone over the next three years,” he said, while adding that similar directions would be applied for other Metro projects as well.
Mungantiwar said this while addressing a media gathering on his department’s latest drive for encouraging tree plantations across the state.
“A week-long tree plantation drive will be held across the state. We are targeting plantation of over 4 crore trees with the help of other government departments, citizens, environmental organisations, and business groups,” said Mungantiwar. The drive is being conducted for the second consecutive year.
Last July, the Maharashtra government had achieved 2.82 crore plantations across the state on a single day, which was even registered as a record in the Limca Book of Records. Encouraged by last year’s response, the finance minister said his department had decided to double the target this time around.
“The special drive is aimed at sowing seeds of tree plantation among residents. There is already a lot of sensitivity over the need to enhance the green cover. The whole idea is to provide a platform for such volunteers to express themselves,” said forest secretary Vikas Kharge. Mungantiwar claimed that an average 75 per cent of the trees planted last year had survived.
The government has taken various initiatives to garner support for the green initiative. It has launched a campaign for enrolling volunteers and supporters of the green initiative. The campaign, labelled Green Army, has already seen registration of 31 lakh volunteers, claimed Mungantiwar. Registrations are being done both online and offline.
The department has also launched ‘MyPlant’ mobile application which allows individual volunteers to record the data on tree plantations. Sources said that the government would be attempting another record this year, and this data will serve as “valuable evidence”.
Information regarding the initiative has also been made available on the toll free helpline ‘1926’, which is also being used to register complaints of various forest violations. In the run-up to the initiative, the government has lined up an aggressive publicity campaign to spread the word. While Mungantiwar said that the government had a stock of 16.60 crore saplings, which would be provided on concessional rates to the volunteers. The government is also running a saplings-at-your-doorstep programme to promote the initiative.
“The target is to enhance the green cover to 33 per cent in three years. This cannot be done without abundant plantations in non-forested areas. We are creating a land bank of areas that can be greened. The plan is to plant a total of 50 crore trees across the state in the next three years,” Mungantiwar said.