Monday, December 14, 2020

Telangana’s greening drive aims at mitigating climate change


The green garland scheme of Telangana is expected to raise forest cover in the southern Indian state to 33% of its total area to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions

A large number of people in Telangana have been provided with seedlings under the Haritha Haram programme (Photo by Mohan Chandra Pargaien)

A large number of people in Telangana have been provided with seedlings under the Haritha Haram programme (Photo by Mohan Chandra Pargaien)

Forests support countless and diverse species, provide essential ecosystem services, stabilise climate, regulate the water regime, besides providing a direct source of livelihood for more than one billion people worldwide.

Having a two-fold role in climate change, forests can cause up to half of the global greenhouse emission due to land-use changes. At the same time, they are an excellent sink for carbon dioxide, the single biggest cause of global warming.

Having a huge potential to absorb about a sixth of global carbon emissions, forests across the globe provide one of the cheapest natural and low-tech ways to offset greenhouse gas emissions. When managed in a sustainable manner, reforestation and landscape restoration of forests help to reduce the vulnerability of both forest and forest-dependent communities to the consequences of climate change.

Since climate change is one of the major drivers of degradation of forests and disturbances to forest-dependent communities, environmentalists and foresters are now supporting the strategy of assisted natural regeneration also as an alternative to tree planting, which is low-cost, easy to adopt and a high-impact intervention to restore and rejuvenate degraded forests and biodiversity and sequester carbon as well.

Restoring 350 million hectares of degraded forests by 2030, which could sequester up to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, is the main objective of the Bonn Challenge, a land restoration and tree plantation programme initiated by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

Considering the many roles and services of trees, there had been initiatives at the international, national and local levels by increasing the tree cover and protecting and developing existing forest wealth, which are being subjected to many challenges by human activities.

Notable among these initiatives are the Trillion Trees initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation, Plant a Billion Trees by non-profit Nature Conservatory and Billion Trees Tsunami of Pakistan.

In India, the federal government launched the Green India Mission (GIM) in 2014 to increase forest cover by five million hectares and to improve the quality of forest cover on another five million hectares of forest and non-forest lands.

A forested area in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana (Photo by Mohan Chandra Pargaien)

A forested area in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana (Photo by Mohan Chandra Pargaien)

As a signatory to the Paris climate pact, India has committed to creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide  equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. Various provincial governments have introduced tree-planting programmes such as Maharashtra’s plan of planting 330 million saplings and Uttar Pradesh’s plan of planting 220 million trees in 2019 and Madhya Pradesh planting 66 million trees in one day during 2017.

Green Garland

The recently created southern Indian province of Telangana launched its flagship greening intervention —  Telangana Ku Haritha Haram (Green Garland for Telangana) — in 2015 to increase the green cover of the state from the existing 24% to 33%, with a target of planting one billion trees in existing forests and 1.3 billion outside forest lands.

Contrary to the conventional practice of entrusting the responsibility of tree planting to the forest department, other stakeholders have been included in this initiative. Frequent monitoring at various levels, active involvement of public representatives and implementation in various ingenious ways by field functionaries have resulted in the successful implementation of the programmes.

Linking tree planting programmes with wages and livelihood under various government schemes and incentives have resulted in wide acceptance and popularity of Haritha Haram.

This has helped not only to make all governmental organisations and other stakeholders responsible and empowered but also provided them with a good platform to address the challenges of climate change.

With the inclusive concept of Jungle Bachao, Jungle Badhao (Protect Forest, Expand Forest), the activities outside forest areas are centred on increasing greenery by way of planting in rural areas.

Considering the vital role of green cover in both cities and villages, the recent focus of the government has been to develop and create urban green spaces.

For the forest department, the mandate is like a dual platform, covering both protection and increase of forest growth, including restoration of degraded forests, which has been gaining much attention under the new approach of Forest Land restoration (FLR) to ensure sustainable land use for improving the wellbeing of humans and the environment.

A Red Sanders and Malabar Teak plantation in private land (Photo by Mohan Chandra Pargaien)

A Red Sanders and Malabar Teak plantation in private land (Photo by Mohan Chandra Pargaien)

Since launching of the programme in 2015, so far 2.14 billion seedlings (1.42 billion outside forest areas and 0.72 billion inside forests) have been planted all over Telangana till October 2020 by involving citizens at all levels.

The programme has also been successful in restoring around 245,000 hectares of degraded forests by spending INR 50.8 billion (USD 0.69 billion) by various government departments.

Unique aspect

The unique aspect of the Haritha Haram programme is its landmark policy initiatives with priority to the environment as reflected in recently amended Panchayati Raj and municipal laws to include afforestation.

Coupled with institutional and financial support, these initiatives call for entrusting roles and responsibilities among panchayats (local self-governing bodies) and municipalities for planting and protection of trees, their survival (85%), and a generous allocation of funds.

Considering the efficacy and multifaceted utilities of forests, restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems has been identified as one of the proven measures to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity by the United Nations by declaring 2021–30 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

Telangana’s Haritha Haram programme is in line with that initiative.

Mohan Chandra Pargaien is an Additional principal chief conservator of forests in Telangana.

As appeared in


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Miyawaki Way to Green Urban Landscapes and Degraded Forests

This new method of raising diverse forests can be a boon to tackle the challenges of climate change and lack of green cover across various locations.

Miyawaki Forests give fast, dense and more biodiversity than conventional forests
Source: Wikipedia

Gaining popularity:

Six months old Miyawaki Plantation at NTPC Ramagundam Telangana India Pic: TSFDC

Proven results:

Impact of Miyawaki Method on growth and succession © as compared to natural conditions (a) & traditional reforestation methods (b) Source: Schirone,B.,Salis, A.,& Vessella, F. 2011)

Cost of Raising:

One of the alternatives to tackle degraded forests:

New greens for urban resilience:

A 5 years Miyawaki forest near Hyderabad grown in Arbor Road Estate Telangana India. Pic: Kirti Anand

Challenges ahead:

Way forward with innovations:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Green strides to a social movement

Telangana Ku Haritha Haram is transforming from being target-oriented to a socially-driven quality-focused initiative

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The importance of forests and tree planting initiatives has started gaining momentum both at national and global levels. With various initiatives like the recently launched ‘One Trillion Trees’ initiative of the World Economic Forum with UNEP and FAO, the ‘Bonn Challenge’ of Germany and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ of Nature Conservancy and ‘Billion Trees Tsunami’ of Pakistan, the efforts across the globe are intensifying to increase the tree cover, both for the restoration of degraded forests and to increase the carbon sequestering capacity.
In recent years, concern for the environment has increased tremendously among various stakeholders as reflected in the form of various missions, visions, flagship programmes, etc, both at the State and Central levels. The Indian government under the Paris Climate Agreement has also pledged to increase its forests by 95 million hectares by 2030.
Apart from its regular tree programmes, various States have also initiated tree-planting programmes. Maharashtra’s plan of planting 330 million saplings and Uttar Pradesh’s plan of planting 220 million trees during 2019 and Madhya Pradesh planting 66 million trees in one day during 2017 are a few such programmes. However, sometimes these programmes are either temporary, cosmetic or have a low shelf life due to absence of necessary wherewithal like policy support, financial backup and institutionalisation to ensure their sustenance and continuance in the long run to achieve the desired goals.

Trees by All

Telangana also launched its prestigious flagship programme ‘Telangana Ku Haritha Haram’ (Green Garland of Telangana) in 2015 to increase the green cover of the State from the existing 24% to 33% with a target of planting 100 crores trees inside forests and 130 crore outside forest ।ands. With catchy and effective slogans like ‘Vanalu Vaapus Rawali, Kothulu Vapus Powali’ (rains should come back and monkeys should go back to forests from cities), which linked the interdependent problems of deforestation and monkey menace, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhara Rao succeeded in motivating people on environmental concerns, including tree planting.
Contrary to the conventional practice of entrusting the responsibility of tree planting to the Forest department, for the first time this onus has been distributed among all the government departments, thereby bringing a sea change in the attitude of the officials. This was supported by required monitoring interventions, active participation of all departments and strict implementation to ensure more planting outside forests.
Frequent monitoring at various levels, active involvement of public representatives and implementation with various ingenious ways by the field functionaries have resulted in the successful implementation of the programmes. Linking tree planting programmes with wage/livelihood under various schemes and incentives could result in wide acceptance and popularity of Haritha Haram.

Protection and Rejuvenation

Degradation of forests is one of the major challenges of forest management. As per the Forest Survey of India, 2019, Telangana has 10.18 lakh hectare of open forests with tree density ranging between 10% and 40%. These forests are more or less degraded due to various reasons, including climate change. The government has accorded equal priority to rejuvenate degraded forests by adopting the strategy of protecting them from fire and going in for biotic interference supplemented with silvicultural interventions for new growth.
The importance of this intervention can be gauged from the fact that the Chief Minister himself undertook a field visit of degraded forests being tackled under the Assisted natural regeneration (ANR) model, under which so far 2.45 lakh hectare has been treated. With the provision of required infrastructure, manpower, supportive legal provisions and the recent addition of Rs 3,110 crore under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), comprehensive development of forests is under way including new priority areas like urban parks.
Green strides

Urban Green

Rapid urbanisation at the expense of agricultural and natural land cover has an adverse impact on the health and psychological well-being of citizens, ecosystem and cultural associations. To meet the ever-increasing challenges of lack of green space and responsibility of providing ecosystem services to society, especially in urban areas, the government has identified 129 locations covering 64,000 ha and so far, 32 locations have been opened for public, a majority of which is managed by the forest department.
From this year, the government is planning to develop 95 urban parks throughout the State. Besides helping achieve the long-term objective of climate resilience, these parks are filling the much-awaited gap of decreased green cover outside forest areas.

Outside Forests

Since the beginning of the programme, the necessity of raising green cover with the active involvement of people has drawn the attention of policymakers resulting in prioritising and focusing more on outside forest areas followed by suitable policy and legally supportive provisions. Be it institutional planting by different departments in school premises, bund of agricultural fields, lands of toddy tappers’ societies, lands of religious institutions or rural and urban highways, sufficient provisions were made to ensure both money and material to tackle areas under afforestation programmes.
To ensure accountability and ease of monitoring of the progress of plantations, technological tools like geotagging is also being used. Since launching of the programme in 2015, so far 182.74 crore seedlings (134.47 crore outside forest areas and 48.27 crore inside forests) have been planted all over the State till March 2020 involving all stakeholders.

Green Action

The landmark policy initiatives of the government to accord priority to the environment in the recently amended PR Act and Municipal Act are worth mentioning. Aimed at entrusting roles and responsibilities among panchayats and municipalities for planting and protection of trees, their survival (85%) and with a provision for the green fund, these proactive policies and legal interventions, coupled with institutional and financial support, show a strong political will, care and concern for the very neglected sector of the environment. These are bound to change with the active participation of all stakeholders at the grassroots level.
The target-oriented strategy of Telangana Ku Haritha Haram can help address the environmental challenges in an integrated manner with gradual policy support accompanied by financial and institutional interventions. These interventions with strong political will, concerted persuasion and focus over a period of time are succeeding in transforming the target-oriented approach into quality-based initiatives, leading to a social movement.
(The author is Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Telangana)
as appeared in TELANGANA TODAY

Monday, May 25, 2020


The scientific communities across the globe have in almost unanimity concluded that the relation between man and nature is fundamentally flawed which has resulted in a pandemic. Unlike other disasters, the devastation of Corona has gone beyond all protocols or man-made distinctions on the lines of race, power, occupation, social status, sex, age etc compelling us to accept the fact that we all are equal and we all are connected and interlinked with each other including all life forms or in other words human existence is linked with its interaction and connection with biodiversity. The more we attempt to disregard and disturb this link with our acts or omissions, the more we cause damage to our existence. Playing with nature with scant regard to rejuvenation and healing can lead to catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind.
When we refer to nature, the most relevant explanation goes to Biodiversity which in layman’s term is the variety of all life forms of the earth in land, water and air such as plants, animals and other minute life forms like fungi, bacteria etc. As per UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Biodiversity of all life forms is so diverse, complex and unexplored that out of nearly 13 million species of total plants and animals available on earth, majority of them (around 11.25 million species) are yet to be identified and only 1.75 million are known to us. India, which is one of the 17 megadiverse countries and ranked 10th among plant rich countries, has 4 biodiversity hotspots. Concerning agrobiodiversity, India once used to be home of around 1.1 lakhs rice varieties before the green revolution and presently 33% of the world’s plant species are found only in India. It is this complex interaction and interlinkage between man and other life forms that have made earth worth living since time immemorial.
Burgeoning human population, increasing consumption and decreasing resource efficiency are the main factors responsible for the loss of habitats, uncontrolled exploitation of resources, pollution, the prevalence of invasive species and climate change prompted challenges like global warming which are causing biodiversity loss across the globe. The arrogant association of man with nature has fuelled these challenges enormously. The loss of global biodiversity is the most challenging and a major threat to the very existence of human being, even though it has received much less attention than climate change. As per Living Planet Report, since 1970 there has been a 58% decline of global species population while the freshwater species have declined by 83 %. Added to this, the ever-increasing and never satiating greed of man has increased the global demands for food and other commodities causing degradation, depletion of natural resources and widespread primate habitat loss. The current crisis also has been attributed as a result of habitat changes forcing animals and their pathogens (virus) to shift their base, including those areas which are populated by people.
A moot point worth pondering is the fact that despite repeated policy commitments be it the CBD Aichi Target 5 aiming to reduce the loss of all-natural habitat by 2020 at 50 % or Target 12 aiming to prevent the extinction of species or the recently SDG goals 14 and 15 aiming at conservation and sustainable resources use for halting biodiversity loss, the declination of biodiversity is continuing.
The present scenario of corona crisis is akin to what famous conservationist Rachel Carson once stated: “…man is part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself”. “Our Solutions are in Nature” is the theme of this year’s Biodiversity which very aptly reiterates the importance of biodiversity as the solution to sustainable development challenges arising mainly due to anthropogenic acts including urbanisation, desertification, deforestation causing climate change and other problems relating to the security of food, water and livelihood issues.
India with age-old traditions of adopting principles of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” ( the whole world is one single family) and “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhin”: (May All become Happy) had always been championing and practising the conservation of biodiversity and environment. This had strongly determined the lives and activities of people in the past. The concept of conservation also gets reflected in ancient Indian texts like Arthshastra, Veda and, Manusmriti.
Two main concepts of Gandhian doctrine which have most of the solutions to meet the present challenges of biodiversity loss are related to consumerism and ahimsa. Gandhi’s idea of adopting sensible consumption (enough for everyone’s need) and Ahimsa which prohibits the consumption of other life forms including wildlife have more relevance in the present circumstances of the pandemic. The sensible consumption and waste reduction which involve the active participation of all stakeholders apart from strong policy intervention with genuine concerns are the only way forward to address the challenges of biodiversity loss and are a step towards sustainable management of natural resources.
The solutions and strategies to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss are very complex which involve participation and action form multiple groups including civil society. While attempts to revive the economic growth are inevitable and need of the hour, we should also ensure that our actions and strategies should not go against the grain of nature. It is high time to take cognizance of natural services and ecosystem services while planning for revival interventions for ensuring a balance between economics and the environment. With recent experience of pandemic and significance of the environment in the overall well-being of humanity, the corporations across the world need to rework their strategies towards conservation of biodiversity. The continued poor allocation to environment-related interventions under the CSR has to be re-evaluated and accordingly reworked. The Indian government’s recent intention of seeking CSR funding for Biodiversity protection is a welcome beginning to celebrate this year’s Biodiversity day. The dreaded pandemic has reminded us to bring transformative changes with due consideration to environmental ingredients. Let us tread carefully while adopting the approach of “business as usual”. Let the learnings from past experiences, successes and challenges, fortified with the dedication to build back better, lead us to enter into a new era of a balanced world by creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies.

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