Friday, July 19, 2013

Trees take root in rural areas.

Himanshu Kaushik, TNN Jul 18, 2013, 05.11AM IST
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat is turning greener, at least in its villages. In the past five years, tree cover in the state's villages has increased by about 11-12 per cent and has crossed the figure of 30 crore trees. This is one area where rural inhabitants have trounced their city cousins.
While greenery in villages has jumped, the state has seen a rapid decline in the tree cover along roads with a 20% fall recorded in roadside plantation. Sources in the state forest department said that the last tree count taken up in 2008-09 revealed that there were 26.9 crore trees along the state's rural stretches.
Forest officials said that once collation of tree count data for rural Gujarat is complete, the department will take up the count for urban areas. Officials said only full-grown trees which have achieved good height and have a sizeable girth are taken into account.
This decline in green canopy near urban centres is evident as one drives along national highways or state highways. "In the past five years, at least 20% of trees planted along the roads have disappeared because of road-widening and other infrastructure projects that have come up along the national and state highways," said a Gujarat forest official.
Interestingly, the 2011 report of the Forest Survey of India revealed that there was a fall in tree cover outside forest areas of almost 553 sq km. "Earlier, we relied on data collected by the FSI using satellite images. Now, we have taken up the physical count of each tree. Satellite images do not allow us to study trees lined up along roads and canals and those scattered across fields. These also should be looked at to understand the extent and scope of our tree cover. Forest department officials took up field sampling and used statistical analysis by dividing the state into zones and types of vegetation," said a forest official.
A senior forest official said that the increase in the tree cover was mainly along the fields and this was because the farmers have linked their agro-economics with tree plantation. "Several farmers are now growing trees along the field boundary to sell timber at regular intervals. Even as this helps them to earn some extra money, it also increases tree cover," said the official.
A farmer is encouraged to plant trees on the side of the fields. When it is fully grown, he can cut the tree and and sell timber. The same model has met with success in Anand and Kheda.

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