Kerala Govt To Employ NSS Corps To Retrieve Green Cover

Thiruvananthapuram, July 30: | Updated: Jul 31 2002, 05:30am hrs
Scarred by forest encroachment scams, the Kerala government will employ National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers to retrieve its green cover. In a people's movement with dimensions to make a Guinness entry, one lakh NSS corps will simultaneously plant 1.5 million saplings on roadsides and public places in the State on August 9, according to Kerala forest minister K Sudhakaran.

Follow-up will be the thrust area of the high profile afforestation drive, Mr Sudhakaran told reporters on Tuesday. Although the major line-up will be of fruit-bearing trees like tamarind tree, jack tree, goosberry plant and mango tree, the forest department has also come out with a gift kit of expensive varieties like sandalwood, teak, ebony and red sandal. Saplings of flowering and avenue trees are also available. Tree-guards, deviating from the conventional concrete, will be made of bamboo.

Asked, how expensive wood like teak and sandal could survive, when even the sandalwood tree in the Chief Minister's residence had done the vanishing act, Mr Sudhakaran said that micro-level action plan would take care of the security aspects also. Four state ministers, forest, local administration, public works and education, apart from the NSS volunteers will supervise the healthy future of the saplings planted for the next three years, said Mr Cherkullam Abdulla, state minister for local self government. To ensure land availability in public places and highways, blueprints have been prepared with the help of road maps from the national highway executive engineers, Mr K G Mohanlal, conservator of forests (social forestry) said. The roadside land has been visualised with the intention of being converted to gardens in future.

In just two hours on August 9, the government would be spending Rs 80 lakh on tree planting, which is a record of sorts. The complete follow-up expenses are yet to be worked out, the minister said.

Although Kerala stands high in the national map in the percentage of forest area to total area, the forest cover had been rapidly diminishing in the recent times. Massive encroachment in the Mathikettan hills and dual control debates with Revenue department had been eating the credibility of the forest department. Along with the green cover, the forest ministry also expects to recover its green credibility through the road-side tree planting drive.