An afforestation drive for planting over one lakh saplings and the same number of seed balls during the current monsoon was undertaken by 136 Territorial Army (TA) Battalion (Ecological) of the Southern Command at locations in and around Pune.
The drive was carried out at military establishments, including Bombay Engineering Group (BEG) in Dighi, College of Military Engineering (CME) in Khadki area, and National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, from August 30. The initiative commenced with intensive planning and coordination activities at BEG, where the plantation of close to one lakh saplings, dispersal of 30,000 seed balls, and creation of a water body of 2,500 sq m with a capacity to store 12.2 lakh litres of rainwater has begun.
Simultaneously, 16,000 saplings and 70,000 seed balls are also being planted at CME and surrounding areas in Khadki and NDA.
A press release stated, “With the environmental concern of improving the air quality of Pune city, 136 Territorial Army Battalion (Ecological), under the command of Col Venketesh P, has obtained saplings from social forestry department, Pune, with assistance from Principal Chief Conservator Forest Dinesh Kumar Tyagi and Indian Association for Human Values, Pune. The initiative has received an overwhelming response from local (residents) and NGOs, like Manavlok in Beed and Krishi Jal and Paryavaran Sanrakshan (Dighi). The volunteers from these NGOs join hands every weekend for the plantation drive, following necessary Covid-19 precautions and safety norms. The plantation has successfully reached halfway and the entire exercise is due to culminate on October 2.”
The Ecological TA battalions, which are also supported by the state governments, use technical expertise of the state forest departments for afforestation activities and soil conservation efforts. Presently, nine such infantry battalions of TA (Ecological) are carrying out afforestation in difficult and degraded areas in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Assam and Maharashtra. The Ecological Battalion for Maharashtra was raised in 2017 for drought-hit Marathwada.
“136 TA Battalion (Ecological) headquartered at Aurangabad is committed to take up plantation on a large scale; between two to three lakh saplings are being planted every year in various cantonments of the Southern Command spread in over 11 states. Their efforts have already made a mark in Marathwada region, where the unit has planted over six lakh saplings, 14 lakh vetiver grass, four lakh seed balls and undertaken large-scale water harvesting projects on approximately 823 hectares of forest land, in a short span of three years,” read the press release.
It further stated that in pursuing its planned afforestation programme, the battalion has taken over 200 hectares in advance for the upcoming plantation season of 2021 and has already enhanced its nursery capacity from an initial 40,000 saplings to 1.8 lakh saplings in the current year.
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