Karnataka Government is planning a new law that would mandate growing a minimum of 20 trees on each acre owned by farmers, with the aim of increasing green cover. In order to motivate farmers to grow more trees on their land, an incentive of Rs. 100 per tree would also be given. Increasing green cover would guarantee normal monsoon, said Minister for Forests, R. Shankar.
“There is a provision for us to incentivize up to 100 trees per acre,” he said, adding that the proposed law would benefit farmers in drought-prone regions of north Karnataka. About 400 trees would be planted per hectare on an average, he said. Government has already launched ‘Hasiru Karnataka’ campaign to plant 10 crore saplings across the state increasing forest cover to 33 percent from the existing 21 percent .
“Increasing green cover is essential. Farmers need to be involved in the drive,” Shankar said. “On one hand, we take up afforestation drives and on the other hand farmers cut trees down,” the Minister said, emphasizing the need to reverse it. He also mentioned that the department would not allow construction of resorts in reserve forest areas.
When asked about resorts functioning illegally within forest areas, Shankar said his department was ready to start action but the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force) Punati Sridhar asserted that there were no such resorts functioning in reserved or protected forests. “There may be resorts outside the boundary of a reserved/protected forest and that is out of our control. Even within the declared eco-sensitive zones, if someone owns a private land and wants to start a resort, they have to take permission. There are no illegal resorts in eco-sensitive zones,” he said.
With the National Green Tribunal giving the Centre six months to finalize implementation of the K Kasturirangan report on conservation of the Western Ghats, Shankar said the state Cabinet would take a call on what Karnataka’s stand will be.
Besides Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have opposed recommendations of the report, Shankar said. “In line with the stand that the previous government took, our government had dropped the report as well. But now, we will discuss this in the Cabinet where a decision will be taken,” he said. As many as 1576 villages across 10 districts in the state, covering an area of 20,668 sq km will have to be declared eco-sensitive area as suggested by the report.