The importance of water and the need for forest cover to usher in rains in scarcity-hit regions of Maharashtra, specially in Marathwada can be underscored by the overwhelming registration for state government’s ambitious program of setting up a Green Army.
According to State forest department sources, in Marathwada’s Latur district—the worst affected by drought, the enrolment for the Green Army-Maharashtra initiative till March 11, stood at 1.48 lakh volunteers.
Overall, till date about 6.35 lakh volunteers have been registered in the Green Army all over the state.
The importance of forests, its effects on the rain cycle and the scarcity conditions seems to have now dawned upon the people of Marathwada after regular droughts.
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According to figures released by the State Forest department here, besides Latur district, about 66,304 volunteers have registered for the Green Army from another scarcity hit district of Osmanabad in Marathwada region.
However, the registration of volunteers for the Green Army is yet to show appreciable increase in districts like Hingoli and Parbhani.
A total of 2.55 lakh volunteers have registered for the Green Army across the eight districts of Marathwada.
Having launched a dedicated website http://www. greenarmy.mahaforest.gov.in on January 18 this year, the department intends to enrol minimum of one crore volunteers in the Maharashtra Green Army by March 31.
So far, its efforts have borne fruits with total registered users clocking at 2.97 lakh besides 2975 organisations. Mumbai accounts for 10, 955 volunteers for the Green Army.
“Taking note of the perennial scarcity conditions in Marathwada region the government decided to focus on increasing the forest cover in the region,” the source said.
Currently the forest cover in Marathwada is just 0.4 per cent.
In a bid to increase the meagre forest cover in the region, State Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has requested the Indian Army to deploy its Eco Battalion in the region.
It may be recalled that in summer last year the state in coordination with Ministry of Railways had deployed a special train to ferry water from Ujjani dam in Solapur to Latur to meet the demand for water in the parched districts of Marathwada.
The department intends to increase the overall forest cover in the state from 20 per cent to 33 per cent.
On July 1, 2016 the state Forest department etched its name in the Limca Book of Records by planting 2.83 crore trees. Now the state plans to plant 50 crore trees in the next three years.
Mungantiwar said he is personally monitoring the progress of the Green Army registration and the afforestation drive, and is himself sending congratulatory letters to officers for outstanding afforestation initiatives.
The Maharashtra government has plans to plant two crore trees in one day, and has begun the process with the “Green Army” initiative.