Information and Public Relations Department, Chandigarh, Punjab, December 31: The concerted efforts of Department of Forest and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab has borne fruits as the forest cover has registered progressive rise by 11.63 sq. km in this year along with plantation of 60 lakh saplings under various schemes. 

Disclosing more information, Forest Minister Sadhu Singh Dharmsot said that the Punjab Government led by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is committed to increasing green cover in the Punjab and taking adequate and effective steps in the same direction. 

He said that as per State of India latest Forest Cover report (released in 2020 by Government of India), the total forest vegetation cover in the State has increased by 11.63 Sq. KM which reflects the programs implemented by the government is yielding positive results. 

The Minister said to commemorate 400th Prakash Purab of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, 60 lakh plants have been planted under various schemes in over 6986 villages in the State in this year. 

He stated that with extension support, more than 19.5 lakh high quality clonal plants have been planted by farmers under Submission on Agro-forestry on their fields for which incentive to be disbursed to the farmers through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in AADHAR linked accounts. 

Dharmsot told that this year, the department has introduced high value tree crop "rose wood" in Punjab in Phillaur & Chak Sarkar forests besides planting of around five lakh plants of Sheesham and other trees have been carried out along Sutlej & Beas rivers. 

He further said that final approval of working plans for forests in Shahpur Kandi (Pathankot), Ludhiana, Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts obtained and in-principle approval for forests of Bathinda, Sri Muktsar Sahib & Fazilka Districts was obtained from union government. 

Revealing about another key initiatives, he said that department has given green signal to several infrastructural projects in Punjab including construction of railway lines between Mukerian- Talwara (27.70 KM), Bhanupali-Bilaspur line (Roopnagar) (8KM), doubling of Rajpura-Bathinda railway track (67 KM) widening and strengthening of Bathinda-Malout road, Jalandhar-Kapurthala-Sultanpur Lodhi- Lohian-Gidderpindi road, Sultanpur Lodhi-Makhu road, Muktsar-Jalalabad road, Jalandhar- Hoshiarpur road, Thappal- Muhewal-Jinhari- Tarapur Lift Irrigation Scheme (Roopnagar) & in-principle approval for Punjab portion of Shahpur Kandi dam project and an International Standard ecotourism project on Ranjit Sagar Dam obtained. 

The Minister said that all this has been achieved in COVID-19 times by shifting to online mode of processing of these cases. 

Dharmsot further told that the forest department has set up the first of its kind Nature Awareness Camp near Chamrod Village (Pathankot), which provides livelihood to local youth through Village Forest Committees. He added that Local youth were given training in hospitality, nature guides for bird watching and other aspects of floral and faunal conservation; a "Zip line" of 200 metres has been established. 

The Minister said a tree house and four all-weather resort tents (with attached bathrooms) for camping have been set up besides successful Paragliding pilots have been conducted in the area by experts and necessary permissions now have been sought by Deputy Commissioner Pathankot and from the Tourism Department to take it as regular adventure activity, permissions has also been sought by Deputy Commissioner & the Tourism Department for Water Sports including Jet ski, Parasailing. Further, to get nationwide recognition, "Booking.com" & "Make My Trip" have been approached for national outreach in booking the Nature Awareness Camp. Similar ecotourism initiatives were also planned for Harike & Siswan, he said. 

On drive against encroachment, he said that after removing encroachment and hundreds of tonnes of dumped city garbage, two nature parks have been established with walking trails, gazebo, rain shelter, benches & open gym for citizens established on Dalhousie Road Forest in Pathankot. 

The Ministers said in fight against Covid-19, 75000 masks prepared by women SHGs and shared with public & local Government institutions and department prepared immunity booster tea as per AYUSH Guidelines & it has been distributed to officers performing duties on COVID Nakas. 

He also informed that procedure for obtaining hunting permits for wild boar & Neelgai, the process has been further relaxed to allow Panchayats to apply for such permits. 

Dharmsot said that Beas, Keshopur & Nangal wetlands in the State have been declared as internationally prestigious "Ramsar" Sites besides Chhatbir Zoo has been now inducted as a member of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums. 

He added that for the maintenance and upkeep of 550 plants planted to commemorate 550th Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, an effective supply chain was ensured by the department to replace dying plants and the survival rate was around 71%. 

The Minister said more than 3.6 lakh plants have been supplied to people through I-Hariyali app during the current year adding as many as 1246235 man-days of rural employment has been generated under CAMPA Scheme of the State Forest Department during 2020-21 to raise 4710 hectare plantation.

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