Of plantation drive

Mukerjeet Sharma
Monsoon is the main season of plantation in the Kandi belt as well as outer Himalayas i.e area from Basoli to Rajouri(B.G).It is because 90 percent of the rains in this area are received during this seasion.Forest dept. and and its sister deptt. makes concerted efforts to rehabilitate the degraded forest areas,community lands,Government, religious institutions,road/canal/railways lines, sites by way of sowing and planting trees followed by effective protection.The preparation basically starts a year earlier i.ewith the nursery activities for the raising of planting stocks but the actual drill starts 3-4 months earlier i.e in the month of April-May with the indentification of areas for plantations, prepration of project reports, meeting with people of the area regarding the finalization of exact area to be fenced,choice of plants and sharing of intermediate benefits like grasses,fodder,small wood,etc. (mandatory under participatory mode of plantation under Joint Forestry management schemes); Procurement of fencing material well in time as there is dearth of fencing material, and many times plantation programme got stuck up due this and then fencing and earthwork. In order to raise successful and healthy plantation all these things activities should be completed by first week of July.An other important thing is labour as there is generally great shortage of labour in the kandi belt and moreover this shortage becomes acute because of the rush of agricultural activities during this period.
The actual afforestation activities start with the onset of monsoon i.e with the first shower in the last week of June. Foresters have to be on their toes to avail this opportunity as it is mostly missed especially for the sowing khair/kikar and grasses ( the best time for sowing is only up to 15th July). Sowing, on the other hand is the cheap and best way of converting degraded land into green patches with less resources like labour. finances, staff, etc. It can be further made effective by peltising seed with fertilizer/manure/pesticide .It can be done manually or by machine in the nurseries or through a rcognised agency like WIMCO.The delayed sowing often gets washed away in torrential rains or get supressed by grasses and finally does not grow to the level of fighting the on slaught of frost in the winter and leads to mass causality, hence dejection and abhorrence. Another easy and quick way of greening wasteland is root and shoot plating.It is highly suitable for sisham (Tali), Siris (shreen), Bhaunia (kachnar),Teak,Bamboo slips and tufts of grasses but it can be tried in other cases also. The precautions to be followed are that root shoot be of quality stocks i.e of thump size thickness and 9 inches long.The cuttings be prepared with a sharp edged weapon by a trained person, kept in wet gunny bags and above all planting by and before 20thof July. The traditional methods are not much in vogue and need to revamped.These days bagged plants are mostly (90 percent) are planted in pits and trenches. It is costly and labour consuming one, from the nursery stage to the planting one, hence requires an intensive drill to accomplish the target successfully in time. Still, I have the reminiscences of drenching in the torrential monsoon rain during planting operation and crossing nallahs in flood (water up to waist even more) by holding each other ; in order to undo the risk of washing away. The tractors and trollies usually got stuck in the nallas/khads/tractor road and other hassel like loading-unloading some times taking a day or so in gearing up the things. The bumpy ride to the young seeding followed by rough handling during loading and unloading really damage the plants which become unfit for planting but who care, and why, the lower staff will,as their no provision for such things in the planting schedule – so, needs close monitoring. The plantation is takes off by celeberating Van-Maho-utsava; where in people in large no participate for ceremonial planting. This function is made more thrilling by organizing songs/skits/lecture and talks by the professional, prominent presonalities and above all appeal by VVIP/VIP politician/official, etc. The participants are feasted and given fruits and plants free of cost. Before this function, education and awareness is created among the masses through press/ and by beating of drum, etc.The planting operation involves lot of precaution as the area remains full of snakes, scorpions, wild animals like wild boar,pythons,leopards so a great risk for the labour and staff.I do remember the chilling pain of scorpion bite and the rushing to a hospital in Samba area; and coming across a big snake.
To conclude, the whole operation is full of rigorous drill and lot of thrill. Everyone from top to bottom is busy in this exercise. So much so family members and friends also get a tinge of this. This also boosts the local economy by providing labour and work to factory -walla, tractor-walla,auto-walla,pony and mule owner. Now I have come to know that it is being tendered in order to speed up things and undo the corruption element. To my vast experience of raising extensive and successful plantation of state level as well it is really not advisable to conduct plantation activities through contractor as grooming this culture will take a long time. At the most, fencing work and earth work can be tendered but that is also fraught with risk of getting the work stuck up due to the demarcation and grazing requirement and many other community issues. Govt should give second thought to it and should not consider the plantation operation like other works.
Besides this , it will be a last nail in the coffin of Participatory mode of forestory management. Govt in fact should think of rejuvenating the joint management of forest though participatory mode as it is diwindling fastly.This is so because it has proved successful in greening the degraded community/forest land and moreover is mandatorially required under such schemes.
(The author is former IFS Officer, Patron -in -Chief People’s Organization for Welfare & Environment Reconstruction)