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The Tamil Nadu government decides to revive its forest cover

 
By A Rangarajan
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

THE government of Tamil Nadu is about to launch a massive afforestation drive called the Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project (TAP) which will be funded by the Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund of Japan. The quantum of assistance is to the tune of Rs 424 crore, a soft loan provided at an interest of 2.1 per cent. Of an outlay of Rs 499 crore, the balance will be provided by the state government. This drive has been planned in the wake of the fact that in the last 50 years, nearly 1.3 million ha of valuable forest cover has been lost in Tamil Nadu.

TAP, spread over five years, will commence from 1997-98 and finish by AD 2001 to 2002. It will involve a massive tree planting effort that would encompass an area of nearly 405,476 ha. In addition, an extent of 1,500 km would be taken up for canal bank plantations and coastal shelter-belt plantations. There are nearly 3,000 abutting villages in the reserve forests in Tamil Nadu. Out of this, about 200 villages would be taken up in each of the five years, taking the total number of beneficiary villages to 1,000.

Presently, Tamil Nadu has an estimated forest cover area of around 2.1 million ha. Not only are the forests in various stages of degradation, but the biotic pressure being exerted upon them is also quite high. As a result of a complex interplay of factors, things have been steadily deteriorating over the years. 'The loss and the progressive degradation of the remaining forests have severely threatened the ecological integrity of several catchment areas and watersheds causing the hydrological fallout to be devastating.

The biological upgradation and eco-restoration of forests and other lands would be done through the joint forest management involving the state forest department and village communities. The village communities would participate through the institution of village forest committees. The project document claims that the basic thrust of this whole effort will be on people's participation.

Statistics say that nearly 25,000 ha of forests get degraded annually on account of over-grazing, over- exploitation of fuel wood, timber and other non-timber products. As a result, several rivers have run dry and many now have only seasonal flows. The excess drawing of groundwater for various domestic, agricultural industrial and other demands have also worsened the situation.

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