Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Sunday said that the state government was considering to restore the TD (Timber Distribution) rights of the farmers to fulfil their timber needs for house construction and performing funeral etc that will in turn help in curbing illegal felling of trees. He was speaking at the 64th State level ‘Van Mahotsav’ function at Shamlaghat near Ghanati in district Shimla on Sunday.
The Chief Minister said that it was a matter of pride that the area under forests in the State had increased to 32 crore cubic meters from 25 crore cubic meters. He said that ‘Van Mahotsavs’ make the common people aware about the need of plantation and to inspire them for afforestation.
He directed the Forest Officers to make the assessment of the plantation and their survival done during previous Van Mahotsavs. He also directed them to check illicit felling of trees in the State and to take strict action against the defaulters.
Singh said that he had banned the use of wooden boxes for packing of apples and introduced carton boxes which helped in saving the forest wealth in a big way and growers got remunerative prices of their produce. He said that saw mills (Aara machines) were removed from forest land in the State which also helped in saving trees. He said that nature had bestowed Himachal Pradesh with natural wealth such as mountains, green forests and water springs which needs to be preserved for posterity.
He stressed the need for preservation of animals, birds and wild life which maintain the eco system.
Chief Minister said that a modern carton factory was set up at Gumma in Pragatinagar which produced and provided quality cartons to the fruit growers. He said that it was unfortunate that the carton factory was closed and its machines costing about Rs. 80-90 crore were sold at throwaway price of Rs. two crore only. Singh said that he had got information that the same machines were re-assembled at Nagpur and were producing cartons which were being sold in Himachal Pradesh. He ordered to conduct an inquiry into it.
He said that Rs. 132 crore were being spent on forestry and wildlife sector during current fiscal as against Rs. 127 crore during last year in the State. He said that area of 17,500 hectares would be brought under plantation thereby generating about 34 lakh mandays during current financial year. Singh said that 60 percent plants of broad leaved species would be planted during this year, out of which 20 percent would be of wild fruit species. He said that this would go a long way in checking monkey menace to populace areas as monkeys could get sufficient food in forests itself.
Chief Minister said that six new sterilization centres would be set up during current financial year besides monkey protection parks would be established at appropriate places in the State to house sterilized monkeys. He expressed concern that only five monkeys were sterilized at Kandaghat centre during last year for which he ordered an inquiry.
Chief Minister also released a book titled ‘Wild Medicinal Plants of H.P: An Assessment of their Conservation Status and Management Prioritisation’ and a poster of “Forest Medicinal Plants’ brought out by the Forest Department.
Earlier, Chief Minister planted a sapling of ‘Jamun’ (Syzygium cumini), Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri planted a sapling of Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) while Chief Parliamentary Secretary (Forests) planted a sapling medicinal plant of ‘Harad’ to mark the occasion. Senior officers, prominent persons and local people also planted the saplings of various varieties.