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Social forestry in full swing in Mehsana Thursday, August 30, 2001

MEHSANA: After a three -year long dry spell in North Gujarat, the good rainfall this year has boosted the morale of Mehsana circle of social forestry staff that looks after greening of Banaskantha, Sabarkantha and Mehsana districts.

In the past three years the Vanmahotsava had become a frustrating experience for the department as a large number of saplings planted between June and August withered away due to scant rains and lack of irrigation.

This time with a rainfall of 5505 mm, Mehsana forest officials are particularly more excited about the real green Vanmahotsava and have already planted or distributed 59.32 lakh saplings at various places during the ongoing 52nd Vanmahotsava aptly named Narmada Vraksha Mahotsava 2001 to mark the welcome to the Narmada waters. In Sabarkantha 55.95 lakh saplings have been distributed. In Banaskantha 54.6 lakh saplings were given.

According to sources in the department, the Mehsana circle has kept the target of distribution of 285.33 lakh saplings and seeds in the three districts. It has distributed 169.93 lakh saplings to village panchayats, educational institutions, government offices and some individuals.

On the Independence Day, the circle planted 1.06 lakh saplings and distributed 2.06 lakh saplings at government offices and the educational institutions in Mehsana, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts.

And to spread the message of social forestry and create public awareness about the importance of Vanmahotsava, it held functions at Dantivada in Banaskantha, Karanpura (Narmada junction near Kadi in Mehsana) and Anera (Sabarkantha).

Talking to this reporter, Mehsana circle conservator of forests A K Saxena said all his staff was earnest in trying to make up for the loss of previous dry spell. He wanted every citizen to religiously nurture at least one sapling by protecting it from all hazards. However, Saxena was unhappy with the bureaucratic approach to social forestry.

Vanmahotsava, he said, should not be a mere annual ritual. It should be a part of life in the broader sense which involves sensitiveness to our environs. He felt that the concept of social forestry had not been realised in its fullest manifestations. Wastelands, for example, continue to be such are not harnessed. If they were cultivated, there would be an enormous potential source of prosperity.

Saxena suggested that wasteland (a paradox in itself) should be handed over to the social forestry department by the revenue department. Or this could be leased to people, institutions and to corporates to harness its potential which, he felt, was tremendous.

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