Skip to main content

Tree-felling for greenery? Gujarat govt 'accepted' proposal; awaits implementation

By Rajiv Shah
The other day, I went to Nadiad, a town in Central Gujarat, about 55 kilometres from Ahmedabad. For a change, I took an alternate route, which falls between two toll roads – the Expressway and the National Highway. What surprised me was, I saw truckloads of wooden logs moving to and fro on this state highway soon after I left Ahmedabad.
I was immediately reminded of a "tree enthusiast" I had met in 2007. Introduced by former chief secretary PK Laheri, who was then chairman of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), Jayantibhai Lakdawala came to my Times of India office in Gandhinagar with a unique proposal, which, he said, he had put up before the Gujarat government to grow more trees.
And what was the proposal? Allow tree felling to grow more trees! It sounded strange, but his logic seemed interesting and new, hence I wrote a news story in the paper. He called the 50-year-old Saurashtra Tree Felling (Prohibition) Act “a black law”, urging the government, through a proposal he had forwarded to Laheri, to encourage timber cultivation by allowing tree felling. Himself a sawmill owner, Lakdawala, who told me he also ran a voluntary organisation, Taru, in Chandkheda, off Ahmedabad, insisted, “More timber for industry should be encouraged in order to increase the green cover.”
Pointing towards how forest and revenue departments had "discouraged" the timber industry, he said, the law prohibiting felling makes it obligatory for the farmer to get a mamlatdar’s permission before cutting down a tree for commercial use. The procedure further required the forest department’s nod. His proposal required land on either side of the Narmada canal be "used" for cultivating timber, and SSNNL should allow its commercial use through a contract. Laheri told me, Lakdawala is one of the few persons who have come up with "a fresh ideas".
Running a sawmill in Sejpur-Naroda, Lakdawala further told me, the greenery in Anand and Kheda districts (Nadiad is Kheda district’s headquarter) is due to the heavy concentration of saw mills there. “In 1970, there were 14 trees per hectare (ha). In 1980, this went up to 28, and today in Kheda, there are 48 trees per ha and 65 trees per ha in Anand,” he said, even as seeking a review on the ban on new sawmills, "imposed" after a Supreme Court order.
Recalling what all Lakdawala had told me in 2007, I decided to phone up this tree strange enthusiast in order to find out what had happened to his proposal. “It was taken positively, even a government resolution was issued in 2015 allowing commercial use of trees, but nothing has happened. I wanted the Gujarat government to encourage farmers to grow trees and allow them to cut them for commercial use. Chief minister Vijay Rupani personally called me and we had a discussion on the proposal, which he took positively”, he said.
“However”, regretted Lakdawala, “Things have failed to move thereafter. The policy is there, but it is not being implemented. The bureaucracy appears least interested. I forwarded a detailed project report to the Gujarat government on what all could be done after I signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the Vibrant Gujarat summit in January 2013.” Forwarded to me, the proposal, claimed to have been worked out with the help a Netherlands expert, Jan Erftemeijer, who apparently had the Netherlands government backing, said, two sides of expressways, national highways, state highways, district, urban and rural roads could be used to grow what he calls "woodcrop" on a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
Pointing out that this should be done on a “commercial basis”, the proposal said, the two sides of the network of rivers and canals having thousands of kilometers of land also remain "unused", and should therefore be "used" for woodcrop. To start with, as a model, the 95-km-long Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway should be used. Once the woodcrop matures, the trees should be allowed be cut and sold, and those on contract allowed to continuously regrow trees for commercial gain.
The Netherlands expert on visit to Gujarat
Claiming that the woodcrop concept was successful in Yamunanagar in Haryana, the proposal said, there was no woodcrop’ and wood based industry in the area, farmers took the initiative in 1990s, that too without official support. The surrounding areas green today. Presently, it is the basis of about Rs 10,000 crore worth annual turnover for timber industry. The situation, though on a smaller scale, is the same with regard to Kheda district of Gujarat, which provides an annual turnover of Rs 2,000 crore, Khagadia district of Bihar, and some areas of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
Woodcrop increases the earning to the farmers by three to four times compared to the regular crop, the proposal contended. If the regular crop earns Rs 40,000-50,000 per acre per year woodcrop earnings would be Rs 1,50,000-1,75,000. This, he claimed, would lead to self-sufficiency in wood and our dependence on import of wood from other countries would reduce.
Seeking “initial government help” for Rs 200 per tree in order to grow about 2.4 lakh trees along the 95-km Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway, the proposal, floated through Lakdawala’s NGO Taru, said that the NGO would “maintain the tree for the period of 10 years or up to the full grown woodcrop”, adding, the earnings from the trees would be shared between the National Highway Authority of India, which owns the expressway, and the NGO on a 70:30 ratio, while the farmers nearby roads would be “compensated to protect the trees.”
Lakdawala believes, his proposal is “more viable” than crores spent by the Gujarat government to grow more trees across the state every year. He told me, out of the total grown trees grown during its tree plantation drive by the state forest department, less than one per cent survive. His proposal added, government nurseries also provide plants, but unfortunately these plants are not converted into trees, which lead to huge wastage of government funds and human capital.
Here was a propal for woodcrop as an "alternative", he said, to grow, maintain, save, cut and regrow trees commercially. Government, NGOs, farmers and other agencies coulc be involved by "offering" extra earning, creating employment and other advantages, which will cut down the huge gap between demand and supply of wood. Would it work? That's the million dollar question, especially when forest department officials take the view that in the protected forests tribals have are "harming" tree plantations, while tribal activists insist, only by empowering tribals one can protect forests.

Comments

TRENDING

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Dad, we only wish the world was deserving of a brave and honest man like you!

Reproduced below is an open letter to jailed former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt by his daughter and son Aakashi and Shantanu Sanjiv Bhatt. Bhatt is in Palanpur Jail after being awarded life imprisonment by a Jamnagar sessions court in 2019 for a custodial death way back in November 1990. Known to have said, Narendra Modi as chief minister directed Gujarat cops to allow Hindus to vent their anger, Bhatt was suspended in 2011 for allegedly remaining absent without permission and misuse of official vehicles, and thereafter sacked in August 2015. *** Dearest Dad, Today, as you complete 58 glorious years of your life, we wish we could hug you to never let go and smother you with wishes and love, while you celebrated your birthday surrounded by friends and family. There was a time, not too long ago, when each birthday was celebrated as a wonderful year gone by, and an open armed welcome to the new exciting year ahead; however, today as we stand here, staring into the abyss of the last 3 years,

President Vladimir Putin! Act now! History will record you for ushering in peace

Dr David Leffler, a Ph.D. in Consciousness-Based Military Defense, who has served as an Associate of the Proteus Management Group at the Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College, and currently, serves as the Executive Director at CAMS and lectures, has been propagating what he calls Invincible Defense Technology (IDT) as a means to bring about peace amidst warring nations. Writing in the same vein, here is tells Russian President Vladimir Putin to permanently keep his warriors on Ukraine border: *** President Vladimir Putin! You are amassing (soon perhaps) up to 175,000 Russian military personnel on Ukraine's border. Are you afraid that Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members, threatening Russia's sovereignty? The presence of these Russian troops is triggering a response within the international community that could easily become volatile. Tensions are also simultaneously rising between the US and other countries such as China, North Korea and Iran. These hots

Threat to PM's life completely concocted, he shouldn't make irresponsible statements

"BJP protesters were closest to PM's convoy" Farmers call PMO lie: The Samyukta Kisan Morcha on the events related to the visit of the Prime Minister to Punjab on 5th January: *** 1. On receiving the news of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed visit to Punjab on January 5, 10 farmer organizations affiliated to the Samyukta Kisan Morcha had announced a symbolic protest for the arrest of Ajay Mishra Teni and other outstanding demands. For this purpose, programs of protests and effigy burning were announced at village level across Punjab on January 2 and at district and tehsil headquarters on January 5. There was no program to stop the Prime Minister's visit or obstruct his program. 2. As per the pre-determined schedule, peaceful protests were held at every district and tehsil headquarters of Punjab on 5th January. When some farmers were stopped by the police administration from going to the district headquarters of Ferozepur, they protested by sitting on the

How can truth prevail when education system makes one ignorant even about 1+1=2?

In an email alert distributed by janvkalp@googlegroups.com, Prof CK Raju, an Indian computer scientist, mathematician, educator, physicist and polymath, has argued that former colonial societies and their rulers have “accepted” the false history of science, including mathematics, distributed by the church, whose power comes from myths and superstitions. *** Truth presupposes knowledge, which depends on the education system. During colonialism the church captured the education system worldwide. Church power comes from myths and superstitions. Through its capture of the education system, the church is able to instil those myths and superstitions in the minds of children worldwide. This enables it to indoctrinate impressionable young children for 15 to 20 years. People expected only religious propaganda from the church. But the unexpected trick was that the church captured our education system by using a false history of science, which it initially erected during the Crusades. For examp

Post-Balakot 9% increase in support to Modi; "not" BJP or Amit Shah: An Ahmedabad view

By Rajiv Shah Elections were over, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already won a landslide, yet the poll fever seemed to continue unabated among the middle classes of Ahmedabad. Ordinary citizens of Ahmedabad, called Amdavadis, are quite sparing when it comes to bets. They ensure that they do not splurge. One of the bets that I came across on the D-day, May 23, was to tell the most correct number of seats the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would win. 

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.

Periyar opposed imposition of alien culture on Dravidian people, but wasn't anti-Hindi

Part 2 of interaction with Thiru K Veeramani, deological disciple of EVR Periyar and one of the senior most leaders of the Dravidian movemen, by  Vidya Bhushan Rawat*: *** Thiru K Veeramani is the ideological disciple of EVR Periyar and one of the senior most leaders of the Dravidian movement at the moment. He started working under his mentor EVR Periyar at the age of 10 years when he delivered his first speech in Salem. Veeramani is President of Dravidar Kazhagam and editor of Modern Rationalist, a monthly journal devoted to Periyar’s ideas. That apart, he is editor of many other magazines and journals in Tamil. This interview was conducted by Vidya Bhushan Rawat at the Periyar Thidal on November 1st, 2019. These are some of the excerpts and the entire interview can be viewed at the youtube link being provided at the end of the article. Dravidian movement internationally Thiru Veeramani said that “It is high time that Periyar must be globalised now. He said that it was easier in rel

Post-Covid, people would look to Ambedkarite, Marxist and Socialist ideologies for direction

Pramod Ranjan*  makes prediction of what people would think post-pandemic phase: *** It is said that had the spread of the Novel Coronavirus not been contained by imposing lockdowns, by now, it would have consumed a substantial chunk of the human residents of the earth. But is the truth as one-sided as is being claimed? Lockdown killed lakhs of persons the world over and its after-effects have ruined the economies of scores of low- and middle-income countries like India. Crores of persons have been condemned to a life of poverty and misery. What is going to change Offices and educational institutions were a gift of the modern age. By bringing human minds together, the places of work and the centres of education not only scripted a new chapter in the development of the human race but also brought diverse communities on common platforms. It is almost certain that in the post-Covid world, schools and offices would not exist as we know them today. A new law for bringing about changes in

#ResignModi vs TINA factor: This activist insists, he can indeed be an alternative!

Chandra Vikash* answers the question: After Modi who? *** With the election results in five states on May 2, and more than a hundred million Indians who have petitioned online with hashtag #ResignModi together with the resound drubbing by the global media projecting him as a narcissist and a disaster, it is a bygone conclusion that Modi should resign or will be forced out by the people very soon. In such an event, do we have a replacement for him in place? After Modi who? I don’t see anyone from the existing power circle – as coming forward or finding support with people given the widespread anger and resentment. It will therefore have to be a dark horse who can rise up to the challenge to bring together India’s diversity and differences, conflicts and contradictions and transform them into new synergies and opportunities to rise up and to save the country from sinking further into despair and disillusionment. In such a scenario, fully aware of our deep and complex challenges at this