Lucknow, Jan 2 (IANS) Even as the successive governments in Uttar Pradesh set records in tree plantation drives, the forest cover in the state has actually reduced by 100 square kilometres over the years.
The Forest Survey of India report, released earlier this week, shows that the state’s tree cover has gone down to 7,342 square kilometres at present to 7,442 square kilometres in 2017.
This implies that while most of the tree plantation drives undertaken in the state have remained mainly on paper and tree felling has also not been checked.
As per the forest records, nearly 59 crore trees have been planted in the state during the past seven years.
In 2013-14, 11 crores saplings were planted as per government records. If these trees had survived, the state’s green cover would have increased appreciably.
In 2016, the Akhilesh government set a new record by planting five crore saplings in 24 hours and found a place in the Guinness book of records.
In 2019, the Yogi Adityanath government also clocked another record when it planted 22 crore saplings in one day. The Yogi government had planted 11 crore trees in 2018.
According to forest experts, a sapling can become tall enough to be counted through satellite within three to four years of being planted.
Prabhakar Dubey, additional chief conservator of forest, social forestry said: “More than planting saplings, we should focus on their maintenance and turn this into a social movement. Plating saplings is easy, but keeping them secure and maintaining them is more important.”
Most of the saplings either wilt away or are eaten by stray cattle.
Uttar Pradesh forest officials claim that the reduction in tree cover is mainly due to the rapid development work being undertaken in the state.
“Trees are being cut for the construction of roads, highways and railway expansion. Trees are felled even for temporary events in various districts. People should be made aware about the loss of green cover because of this and replacements must be made,” said an official.
According to sources, planting each sapling costs Rs 4.28 and tree plantation in one hectare of land costs Rs 5,250.
A green activist in Kanpur said: “These are paper trees to be found only in files of the government. The ground reality is different. Most of the saplings die within 24 hours of plantation because they are just branches of bigger trees.
Efforts to contact Uttar Pradesh Forest Minister Dara Singh Chauhan proved futile and calls to his office remained unanswered.