Maharashtra government is taking the help of school children in a big way to plant trees across the state and increase its green cover. It is also pushing schools, both government and some private ones, to set up Environment Protection Squads (EPSs) comprising students, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said. As Maharashtra faced a prolonged dry spell recently, the Ministry of Forest hit upon a novel plan under its Social Forestry scheme and roped in school children from VII to X standards to plant trees across the state. In one single day (August 15), children from 30,216 schools planted 5.72 lakh tree saplings, he said.
In Marathwada, a drought-prone region which has only 6 per cent forest cover, students from 6,175 schools planted 3.16 lakh saplings across eight districts. Speaking about SPSs, Mungantiwar said “these school children will ensure that the saplings they have planted survive for the next three years”. He said the task of ensuring the survival of saplings is very easy. “Each school was provided with 25 saplings. School children normally bring tiffins and water bottles with them. All that they have to do is to wash their hands at the saplings after finishing their meal.”
He said the government supplied tree saplings as per the demands and requirements of the schools and local population. “People preferred saplings of fruit bearing trees and those that absorb air pollution. Most preferred species of trees included mango, amla, jamun, gulmohar, neem and bamboo”. Mungantiwar said since the Social Forestry Department of his Ministry has inadequate manpower, it has decided to involve various stakeholders, including students and local people, to expand forest cover.
This exercise will not only increase the forest cover but also lead to more rainfall, forest produce and also help in wildlife conservation, the Minister said.
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