June 5, 2017
Conservation of forests: A story of success for the Bengal Govt
The Bengal Department of Forests manages 11,879 sq km of forests in the State, which is 13.38% of the total geographical area.
Some of the notable achievements between 2011 and 2017 are:
- The forest cover of the State has been on the increase – it has gone up by 3810 sq km, or 4.29%, which is the highest in the country. Incidentally, the forestry management in Bengal is 150 years old; the Directorate of Forests came out with a commemorative volume, 150 years of Forestry – 1864-2014 in December 2014.
- Between 2011 and 2017, the department has afforested 72,697 ha of forest area, besides doing extensive soil and moisture conservation work. It has also created a production capacity of 2 crore planting stock through modern nurseries, thereby replacing almost the entire capacity of conventional nurseries.
- Under the Joint Forest Management initiative, the Directorate has distributed Rs 114.03 crore of Forest Protection Committee (FPC) shares to members of these committees during the period of 2011 to 2017, and has come out with the most progressive Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) notification in the country.
- Inspired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Sabujshree programme was launched with effect from May 27, 2011 to provide a sapling to every new born child in the State to inculcate emotional bonding between the child and nature and also to provide an incentive of economic benefit for the future. It is being implemented at the block level throughout the State. Up to March 2017, more than 2 lakh seedlings were distributed.
- Forestry intervention programmes worth Rs 534 crore have been sanctioned for the Clean Ganga project for the State, which was launched towards the end of 2016.
- The Wildlife Wing of the Forest Directorate manages a network of 4,692 sq km of protected areas, or 5.28% of the geographical area of the State, up from 4.56% prior to 2013. Emphasising the importance of conservation, two new wildlife sanctuaries have been created – West Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary in 2013, over an area of 556 sq km in South 24 Parganas district for protection of the keystone species of the Sunderbans, and Pakhibitan Wildlife Sanctuary, over the 14.09 sq km water body in Gajaldobha in Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal, for protection of aquatic and migratory birds.
- The biggest success story is the conservation of rhinoceros and elephant habitats. The rhinoceros population has reached 255 (2015 estimate) and the elephant population has reached 708 (2014 estimate), the highest in the last few decades. Camera trap technology introduced in recent years has showed a healthy population of tigers in the wild. For the first time in the State, a census of crocodiles was done in 2012.
- The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-assisted West Bengal Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Project (WBFBCP) commenced on August 24, 2012 with an outlay of Rs 406 crore. The Project Management Unit (PMU) of the project is implementing the project in 600 JFMCs. Till financial year 2016-17, the total plantation raised is 12,358 ha of forest and 934 ha under social forestry. Under this project, the Forest Directorate has expanded and renovated the West Bengal Forest School in Dow Hill in Kurseong town, and the West Bengal State Forest Training Institute in Hijli was inaugurated on February 11, 2016 with the intention of creating infrastructure facilities for human resource development.
- The West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Limited (WBFDCL) has achieved new heights of physical and financial parameters. Online booking of eco-tourism facilities under WBFDCL was started in 2014. E-auction of forest produce, a major initiative, was started in 2017.
- The West Bengal Zoo Authority (WBZA) was institutionalised in April 2012 with the transfer of the management of 11 zoos of the State. It started modernisation of animal housings at Alipore Zoo and transformed Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling, considered the best zoological parks in the country. Rebuilding of Bengal Natural History Museum in Darjeeling was completed and Bengal Safari, Siliguri was inaugurated on January 21, 2016. New enclosures for the conservation and breeding of red panda and snow leopard were commissioned in Topkey Dara in Darjeeling district. The Sunderbans Wild Animals Park and Tiger Rescue Centre was commissioned in Jharkhali in South 24 Parganas.
- The West Bengal State Forest Development Agency (WBSFDA) was institutionalised in 2014. Along with others, it is implementing the plantation programme of West Bengal Pollution Control Board and the MPLAD (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funding programme in the forestry sector. Online reservation and payment gateway for 20 eco-tourism centres in the State was started in May 2015. Eco-tourism units have been commissioned in Takdha, Pokhriatar and Chimney in Darjeeling district.
- The West Bengal Wasteland Development Corporation Ltd. (WBWDCL), has, over the last few years, taken up landscaping works for Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), Raghunathpur Power Station, Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, Howrah Road and Bridge Corporation, Department of Technical Education, Kolkata Municipal Development Authority (KMDA), Land Port Authority, Swami Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (Salt lake Stadium), Coal India Complex office in Rajarhat and the Coast Guard. It has also contributed towards the development of Eco Park in Rajarhat as well as the Harinalaya Park inside, and conducted the livelihood generation programme under Paschimanchal Unnayan Parishad in Garbeta in Paschim Medinipur distirct.