Plant a tree, get free power, says Hemant Soren
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren on Friday evening announced that the state government would give five units of free electricity to urban residents for planting one tree on their residential premises.
The step, which the chief minister’s secretariat claimed to be the first such initiative in the country, is aimed at increasing green cover in urban areas.
The announcement was made during the 73rd Van Mahotsav programme at the new auditorium of IIM Ranchi.
“Urbanisation is the biggest threat to the environment, with increasing concrete jungles and depleting green cover in the city areas. I often see the black spots of concrete structures from the helicopter while visiting different parts of the city. If we do not conserve the environment, we might have to pay for it. I have announced to offer five units of free electricity to those individuals who plant and nurture a tree in their compound. It does not mean flowering plants, but trees which are ecologically significant,” Hemant said at the event.
The chief minister said an official notification would be issued soon.
“Free electricity would be given to house owners till they nurture the tree, irrespective of the time span and rate of electricity,” Hemant added.
Sources in the chief minister’s secretariat said the announcement was meant for individuals and not institutions.
“The idea is to encourage planting of trees in houses in city areas,” the official said.
The chief minister said the forest department had set a target of planting two-crore trees across the state during 2022.
Hemant expressed concern over the Centre’s move to amend the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022. “We have come to know about the central government’s move to amend forest rules, which does away with the obligation to take permission from gram sabhas before felling trees. It will have an adverse impact on forest dwellers and tribals. We will take up the issue with the Union ministry,” he said.
The Centre’s new Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022 published on June 28 have drawn criticism for allegedly diluting certain provisions on recognising forest rights before granting clearance to a project. Opposition parties have alleged that the rules have also removed the obligation to get gram sabha’s consent for felling trees that was introduced through an amendment in 2017.
CPM politburo member Brinda Karat, who was in Ranchi earlier this month, had also lodged her protest against the Centre’s move and had spoken to Hemant about it.
The chief minister also admitted the nexus between illegal mining firms and the forest department. “I have directed authorities to ensure that all saw mills within a radius of 5km from the forest area are removed and no permission is given to the new ones. We have seen that a large number of saw mills were operational in the middle of the forest. It cannot happen without a nexus between the operators and forest officials,” he added.
The directive issued in June was aimed at putting a check on illegal felling of trees in notified forest areas.