In a bid to create ecological balance, the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday asked the Forests and Wildlife Preservation department to revive the original flora and fauna keeping in view our state’s natural climate and habitat.While reviewing the functioning of Forests and Wildlife Preservation department through video conferencing, the Chief Minister said that as an avid nature lover he has always evinced keen interest in the forestry and wildlife. He emphasized the need to undertake massive plantation of traditional trees including ber, kikar, saal, shisham etc. besides katha amb an indigenous variety of Mango commonly prevalent in Kandi region and southern Punjab, which have eventually dwindled due to passage of time as revival of its plantation would obviously offer a natural habitat to old species of wild animals and birds which have now gradually extinct over a period of time. Captain Amarinder Singh also complimented the department for undergoing plantation of Chandan and High Yielding Bamboo (Bamabusa Balcooa), which gives double the yield of traditional bamboo. He asked the Additional Chief Secretary, Forests to encourage plantation of more indigenous species and motivate the farmers for plantation of Poplar, which is not only water efficient but also quite remunerative due to its huge demand in the wood industry.
The Chief Minister also asked the department to fully explore the potential of ecotourism and concerted efforts should be made to develop Siswan and Harike as preferred ecotourism destination in northern India. Captain Amarinder Singh said facilities like boating, nature trails, board walks, bird watch towers should be created to attract the tourists. He also underlined the need for multi department convergence strategy to promote allied agro forestry activities such as Sericulture, Apiculture (bee-keeping) to supplement the income of the farmers.
Likewise, the Chief Minister also underscored the need to go for breeding of crocodiles in our rivers especially Beas and Sutlej, which were in abundance almost six decades ago. He, however, appreciated the efforts of the department for re-introduction of Ghariyal, which form a very important component of the riverine ecosystem and were present in the river systems of Punjab. Captain Amarinder Singh also lauded the efforts of wildlife for conservation of Indus Dolphins that have been declared as State Aquatic Animals in 2019.
Taking serious view of the growing population of the wild boar, blue bull and Roz especially in the kandi area and cotton belt of southern Punjab, the Chief Minister asked the Wildlife department to immediately take effective measures to save the precious human lives, which are often lost due to beastly attacks by these wild animals besides colossal damage to their crops.
Showing deep concern over the menace of stray cattle across the state, the Chief Minister said that it was now posing a major threat to the safety and security of the people resulting in frequent causalities due to road accidents. To address this problem on priority, Captain Amarinder Singh asked the Wildlife Department to work out modalities in sync with the Animal Husbandry Department for shifting and rehabilitating the stray cattle in those Birs which were not wildlife sanctuaries.
Meanwhile, expressing gratitude to the Chief Minister for giving approval to the much needed Comprehensive policy for compensatory afforestation, the Forests Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot said it would be instrumental for creation of significant chunk of additional land bank which can be utilized by the user agency. Besides, this policy would also enhance the green cover in the country side of the state.
Making a brief presentation about the functioning of the department, ACS Anirudh Tiwari apprised the Chief Minister that department has fixed to achieve 7.5% of area under Forest and tree cover by 2023 in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He said the Government of India has already identified 100 wetlands to be developed on priority basis and five wetlands from Punjab- Harike, Ropar, Kanjli, Keshopur and Nangal have been included among these from across India. He said Moga district has been selected as part of 1 billion plantation project of the country in five years and 90 lakhs plants would be planted during next five years in Moga. Referring to the PUNCAMPA, he said emphasis are laid on greening of the highways under which 1 lakh tall plants have been planted so far and 3.15 lakh plants are proposed to be planted in 2021-22. Likewise, Rs.2.98 crore would be spent on the improvement of habitat of Bir Motibagh and other Birs in Patiala district besides Rs.1.68 crore for development of Siswan Community reserve under CAMPA for 2021-22.The meeting was also attended by Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vidya Bhushan Kumar, Chief Wildlife Warden RK Mishra.