June 8, 2023 was a historic moment for the State when Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma gave a clarion call for achieving a target of one crore commercial sapling plantation through a massive Jan Andolan.
The Amrit Brikshya Andolan (ABA) is a multi-stakeholder year initiative, aimed at planting one crore commercial saplings across the State in a single day! The initiative is aimed at increasing Tree Outside Forest (ToF) areas to give a significant boost to Assam’s green economy by promoting commercial tree plantation and the agroforestry sector by fostering sustainable practices.
To encourage active participation, the Government would also credit an incentive of ₹ 100 to registered SHG beneficiaries upon planting and uploading a photo of the sapling. Additionally, an extra ₹ 200 would be provided after three years if the sapling survives. This ambitious undertaking would be a world record-breaking feat. The drive has set its sights on empowering grassroots-level institutions, including SHGs, and frontline ASHA, Anganwadi and tea garden workers, educational institutions, and various Government departments. By involving these diverse stakeholders, the initiative aims to create a collaborative effort toward massive tree plantation and sustainable development.
The Andolan would stand out as a women-led tree plantation initiative, empowering women economically and socially while simultaneously contributing to environmental conservation. By actively involving women-oriented groups, the drive would promote gender equality and create livelihood opportunities for them. Additionally, educational institutions, including lower primary schools and high schools, would play a significant role in this plantation drive.
These events serve as educational opportunities for students to learn about plants, their significance in environmental conservation, and the importance of sustainable practices. By integrating environmental education into the initiative, the drive nurtures a sense of environmental responsibility among the younger generation and promotes a culture of conservation in society at large.
The introduction of the Amrit Brikshya Andolan mobile application to facilitate the registration process marks a significant advancement for the initiative. The app’s integration with the drive enables seamless monitoring, right from seedling distribution to sapling growth. By leveraging technology, the initiative would accurately track the number of saplings planted, their precise locations, and their survival rates. This data-driven approach enhances the overall effectiveness of the plantation drive, allowing for better assessment and strategic planning for the future. It signifies a commendable effort by the Government to utilise technology for sustainable environmental conservation and create a more accountable and transparent process.
In this drive, 23 commercially valuable species, such as Teak, Boga Chandan, Agaru, Hollock, Garjan, Mahogony, Malabar Neem, Som, Sissoo, among others, would be distributed for planting. These selected tree species have significant economic potential, presenting opportunities for local communities to improve their livelihoods. As these trees mature, they could be utilised for various purposes, such as timber, wood-based industries, and other value-added products, contributing to Assam’s overall economic growth.
In addition to the environmental benefits of increasing the green cover, the plantation of commercially valuable species aligns with the Government’s vision of promoting sustainable economic development and empowering local communities through green initiatives. The ABA stands as a notable step towards achieving both environmental and economic objectives for the State.
The focus on ToF and agroforestry is a strategic approach of the Government to promote sustainable land use and economic diversification. By integrating tree planting with agricultural crops, the initiative would enable farmers to grow valuable timber species alongside their regular agricultural crops.
Agroforestry offers a win-win situation for farmers and the environment. Farmers benefit from the additional supplementary income generated through the growth of valuable commercial species. This supplementary income is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of doubling farmers’ income, thereby enhancing their economic well-being.
The Government of Assam recently introduced two significant regulatory reforms, the Tree Outside of Forest Rules (Sustainable Management) 2022, and the Assam Wood Based Industries (Promotion & Development) Rules, 2022, that allow ease-of-doing-business environment with minimal regulations for the wood-based industry sector. This relaxation under the rules presents an excellent opportunity for our fellow citizens to promote plantation and sustainable tree utilisation in the outside forest space.
The ABA stands as a crucial and far-reaching initiative, making significant contributions to SDGs such as climate action, gender equality, and good health & well-being. The drive would serve as an inspiring example of how a community-driven effort could create a positive impact on both local ecosystems and socio-economic conditions. By inviting every citizen of Assam to actively engage in this initiative, the Government reinforces the notion of shared responsibility and pride in contributing to the State’s sustainable development and green progress.
Let us all commit ourselves to planting a sapling in our homestead /baris/community lands/neighbourhood and contribute towards building a sustainable greener & pollution-free State.
(The author is Minister, Environment and Forest Department, among others, Government of Assam.)