Chief minister Arjun Munda (left) with BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh in Raipur on Thursday. Munda flew to the Chhattisgarh capital to attend the Foundation Day celebrations of the state. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, Nov. 1: Not content with comforting data, chief minister Arjun Munda has asked state forest officials to undertake case studies to get a concrete picture on whether the people of Jharkhand have benefited from afforestation and government schemes in the past decade.
According to the State Forest Report 2009 of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Jharkhand saw an increase of 83sqkm to put its green cover at 23,605.47sqkm.
However, the report of the apex body monitoring the country’s green cover was released only last year. Due to the two-year lag in publication of the report, accurate figures on the current scenario are not known.
At a meeting held with the officials of the state forest department two weeks ago, Munda asked for fresh reports on beneficiaries of plantation drives across Jharkhand.
Speaking to The Telegraph, forest secretary Alka Tiwari said the department was now drawing up a roadmap on how to carry out fresh surveys.
“We are trying to identify an agency, NGO or allied partner who can do the job for us in toto so that we can get a real picture as against the documented figures,” said Tiwari.
Sources said the exercise might take between six months to one year, though Munda had not set any deadline.
Afforestation in Jharkhand is not new, but the fate of planted saplings over a period of time is open to enquiry.
The forest department also has had to contend with accusations against officials of fudging figures and relying on armchair tabulation of data.
The Telegraph had earlier highlighted how newly planted saplings in areas such as Khel Gaon, Khunti and roadways near Ranchi have vanished within months due to lack of upkeep by the authorities concerned.
As a result, Munda’s tough stand is expected to keep officials on their toes.
The state, which has initiated a slew of development projects including road widening, setting up of educational institutes, knowledge hub et al has a big task of ensuring requisite green cover to support forest dwellers in Jharkhand.
The forest department has time and again vouched for plantation drives and measures to promote afforestation. But Munda is unconvinced.
Tiwari conceded that in the last 10 years, Jharkhand has witnessed widespread deforestation largely due to illegal felling of trees, besides development activities.