Plantation is no less a serious business

SK Singh *

This statement or observation on the plain face of it, could perhaps evoke laughter, I am sure. It may even end up charging me as ‘over-patriotic’ about plantation. They may wonder how could plantation ever be classified as ‘serious’.

It should be, according to many, taken easy; plants grow by nature once planted and why this seriousness and all that, the list goes longer. Little did they know that plants too need care that too sustained? Or else, most die down often on our very face. Few are concerned.

Had the infamous ‘Rare Plantation Program’(RPP), of the former CM in 2013, April to be precise, where the CM desired that 5,00,000 plants/saplings be planted within May in and around Singda Dam, been executed seriously, Singda would continue to feed Imphal with uninterrupted water all these years. Forget water, the ecosystem of villages around Singda would have improved multiple times and the natives would have gained both economically as also health wise.

Had the RPP been taken seriously, the 5 lakh saplings would have been planned six or so months in advance, with choice species, location-friendly, suitable for specific zones, rather than pick-any-available plant in the nurseries in the state. Mind you, locating 5 lakh tree saplings unplanned was an impossible task.

The result we all see around, hardly any addition of trees, as not even 30% could have lived this day. What a big loss for mankind, for mother earth; more worrisome is the continuous deprivation of time. Lack of seriousness definitely, is one major component of this apparent waste.

They should know that any breed of sapling wouldn’t thrive in this hilly terrain. Trees suitable for the villages around the Singda, in the catchment area, like Ireng, Kharam Thadoi, Kharam Vaiphei and the others several of them, could have been taken into confidence while planning afforestation in these areas.

This emphasis on taking along the villagers is for two reasons; one, they know what types are most suitable in their areas. Two, they are important for they can under an agreed protocol take care of the plants post-plantation when everyone would leave and forget for one full year.

There should be understanding between the villagers and the Dam authorities in that while the villagers take care of the trees, they also are the owner of these plants, the fruits, the timber when matured should all belong to them. In the bargain, no one is a loser; both benefits. The government gets assured water every year while the villagers gain economically as well as environmentally from the trees, the fruits.

If one looks at how the natives of Sunderbans of 24 Parganas, West Bengal take ‘plantation’ as an essential component for survival, one would have no hesitation to classify it as a serious business. These natives of Sunderbans, the coastal communities, are on the run to preserve, to protect and thus sustain a living in the coastal belt.

Mangroves play a huge role in balancing ecosystem on the boundary between the ocean and the land mass. They contribute to the well being, food security, and thus protect the natives, the coastal communities from flood, erosion, and provide valuable nursery, habitat for fish and mangroves, serve as a coastal defense barrier against storm, water surges, even tsunamis, rising sea levels and most regularly erosion of soil.

If plantation in Sunderbans is for sustaining livelihood of the millions of inhabitants, it is also for the very existence of the whole biodiversity. Economically, plantation of mangroves around villages at the periphery of the Sunderbans National Park has direct implication in rural livelihoods. It creates jobs, in nursery and plantation, improves fishery, generate fruits, flowers, fodder and fuel.

More importantly, it improves carbon sequestration potential of forests, fight climate change and benefit endemic wildlife. Quoting Mayanglambam Ojitkumar Singh’s piece ‘201: Conserving the Mangrove Ecosystems to Curtail Climate Change and Accommodating the Habitats’ ( PC dt. 25 July), “…. a scientific study reported that 100% of mangrove species, 92% of mangrove associates, 60.8% of algae, 23.8% of invertebrates and 21.1% of fish are under threat”.

It perhaps hints at the seriousness of the mangrove protection in the Sunderbans, for the existence of the natives who are constantly exposed to veracity of ocean all around. Can’t this be categorized as very crucial, very serious?

More pathetically, two-thirds of work force for plantation in the Sunderbans is the womenfolk. Most of the men migrate to the city for seeking livelihood for the family. Women are left behind to take care of the family plus plantation after the devastation of the coastline and inundation of saline water to their fields, ponds.

In addition to the household chores, the women join the plantation of saline-friendly plants for around three months in preparation. NGOs come to their help in identifying suitable breeds of plants to survive the saline water all around. Is not this exercise grave?

In Japan, plantations are taken up as a component of ‘tourism’ to boost income from this sector. Again, there lies the question of imperative seriousness. One such massive plantation of bamboos in Japan known as Arashiyama bamboo forest is a name in itself worldwide. This bamboo grove located on the western outskirts of Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was based on the twin concept of enhancing biodiversity while attracting tourists to fuel income.

The Japanese consider that tourists are the driver of economic growth and it pulls out all stops or restrictions to woo foreign tourists. They target 40 million visitors by 2020, when Tokyo is due to host the marquee Olympics and also Paralympics sporting events..During January and April of 2018, 10.5 million tourists visited the site. The turnover is said to be around 15.4 % over the same period the previous year.

The Japanese government invests huge sums to develop the Arashiyama bamboo forest. This grove known for its towering bamboos for kilometers at a stretch, both sides covered entirely with bamboos has been heralded as the most magnificent planned forest in modern times. The entry has since been made free of charge to attract more visitors who otherwise boost tourism across Japan. Can’t then this be taken as a serious business?

We have a couple of national level annual functions all directly or indirectly connected with plantation. The International Earth Day on 22 April every year, the Environment Day on 5 June, World Water Day on 22 March, Van Mahotsava between 1 to 7 July. The concept of International Earth Day was conceived by a Senator from Wisconsin, USA, Gaylord Nelson.

His thought was to initiate a mass movement across the globe to care for ‘ecology, have respect for life on Earth’. He wondered if a small bit of concern about the earth’s resources being depleted, death of lakes and rivers, dumping of industrial wastes, global warming etc is brought to the awareness of the masses, a billion people around could make significant contribution to the Earth.

We can recall that every single year we have celebrations related to Mother Earth, March, April, June and July. And yet we cannot cope up with the depletion on Earth’s resources. This fact again only superimposes the imperative need to be more serious.

Environment Day on June 5 was celebrated across our state too. Apart from the line departments, the CSOs, Army and Para Military forces too joined in the plantation program. These activities of plantation in particular, the Van Mahotsava had been going on for the last 71 years, nonstop ever since it was first conceived in 1954.

And yet, our surroundings are barren mostly, the hillocks on the outskirts of Imphal, are bald exhibiting a dull surrounding all around. One factor could be the lack of zeal, determination and ultimately seriousness.The end result should be disastrous from several considerations; these need no elaboration, they are so glaring.

What should we do then? Can’t we have a system of owning up the planted areas with the dictate for maintenance post-plantation? In bigger states, every city, Municipalities, Local Bodies practice some kind of measures to protect the planted trees. During the nineties and the twenties when I had occasions to visit national capital and other cities, the beautification program of Delhi airport complex was just starting.

I still remember, tree saplings two/three feet tall, in and around the complex, tagged with names like, “Planted by JCT’, several of them. Jagjit Cotton Textiles in Haryana was assigned with the responsibility of plantation, maintenance, sustenance till the trees could thrive on their own. The end result one can see this day around the airport.

Can’t we think of assigning stretches of median plantation on some important roads, to CSOs Corporate bodies so they grow? Suitable memoranda could be drawn and such bodies can be made in charge of specific sections for plantation, maintenance and sustenance till maturity.

The road in front of the Raj Bhavan, for instance, can be assigned with some reputed institution for maintenance for 3nor 4 years to start with, under mutually acceptable agreement. Similarly, other ill-managed portions can be pulled under such a plan so they glitter and add to the beauty and health of the surrounding.

The beauty of Imphal city and its impact on the atmosphere both can be enhanced and preserved. But the essential media is, at the expense of repetition, ‘Seriousness’.

* SK Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 29 2020 .

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