Forest Deptt seeks 8,000 guards for plantation in non-forest areas

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 15 Mar 2017 10:35:59

By Ramesh Marulkar,

Realising insufficient staff in non-forest areas and fulfilling the gigantic target for plantation of 50 crore saplings during the next three years in Maharashtra, Forest Department calculated need for as many as 8,000 Forest Guards to accomplish the set target.

Therefore, it has submitted a proposal to the State Government recently for appointing so many Forest Guards for non-forest areas. Maharashtra has a forest cover in 20 per cent of the geographical area whereas 80 per cent area comes under non-forest category.

Now, saplings are to be planted in blanks, wastelands, roadsides, sides of railway lines, canal sides, hillocks, bunds of agriculture fields etc. However, the department has no field staff to plant and take care of the saplings under massive tree plantation programme.

The main responsibility for plantation lies with Social Forestry, which is now merged with the department. Social Forestry has a total staff of 1955 out of a total forest staff of 20,058, excluding forest labours, which is even less than 10 per cent. Of them, only 250 forestmen are deployed in non-forest areas.

Forest Department and Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra have Forest Guards but they plant saplings in forest areas. Now, the targeted area for proposed massive plantation is outside forest, where the department has negligible field staff members.

It will prove to be an impossible task in absence of sufficient forestmen. If appointed, these Forest Guards will be answerable to the higher authorities, said reliable sources.
As per the norms by National Forest Policy, there should be 33 per cent of green cover in the geographical area of the state. Considering the 3.07 lakh sq km total geographical area of Maharashtra, forest cover is achieved in 20 per cent that means 61,400 sq km. Now, rest of the 13 per cent vast area like wasteland is to be covered by undertaking plantation in a little over 45,000 sq km to fulfill the task, sources pointed out.

It may be mentioned here that Sudhir Mungantiwar, Forest Minister, who also holds the Finance portfolio, has taken initiative in taking up massive tree plantation. Encouraged by the success of plantation of 2.82 crore saplings on a single day on July 1, 2016 with the people’s participation, Mungantiwar has now raised the target to 50 crore plants distributed in the next three years. The government has planned to plant 4 crore saplings in 2017-18, 13 crore in 2018-19 and 33 crore in 2019-20.

The Forest Minister has also formed Green Army with a planning to register one crore youths/citizens as its members to extend active cooperation in this massive plantation programme.

If so many guards are appointed they will get employment opportunities. Plantations of many saplings could be done easily under MNREGA then. These Forest Guards will gain experience during this year’s plantation and that will help them during the next two years’ programme, sources added.
The department is hopeful of getting the required manpower for making Maharashtra green.