STRETAGY FOR COMPENSATORY AFFORESTATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF MINED OUT AREAS
Mining is most important industrial activity contributing to about 2% of GDP and 20% of foreign exchange. The non-coal sector is a mix up of private and public sector and has thousands of mines exploiting minor as well as major minerals. Mining is controlled by the states; however the environmental fine tuning is being done by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Govt. Of India. The non- coal sector is wide spread across the country and this is due to the fact that minor mineral exploitation is done every where. Minor mineral mines are small and the mining is rather primitive and is devoid of any concern for environmental protection. Major minerals like iron ores, manganese ores and base metals are mined in the country extensively both by open cast and underground mining methods. There is now predominance of open cast mining and this poses a major danger to the environment.
The concern for environmental protection got a boost when Forest Conservation Act came in to force in1980 Compensatory afforestation got more systematic with the creation of Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority ( CAMPA) in April 2004. The CAMPA is yet to get fully activated to produce good results and it again depends upon the states to prepare and execute viable schemes for the development of forests, ensuring plantation of trees on lands allotted for compensatory afforestation.
World wide concern for environment protection and the evolution of the concept of Sustainable Development may be useful in achieving the objectives of having 33% of forest cover in the country. The sustained use of the involved land for societal needs and economic gains is the watch word for future development. The minerals came in to the existence much prior to the advent of plants and animals on the face of the earth. The forest wealth and the mineral resources share a common habitat and the mineral exploitation interferes with the forest growth, rather it destroys it completely. The mining is thus environmentally unfriendly industry. It is permitted in the name of industrial development, a most important tool of the modern civilization. The industry brings wealth and jobs to millions and results in the national prosperity. The mineral gets exhausted in the years to come and the mined out area gets desolated and unfit for any societal activity. Recently Mine Closure plan had been made a responsibility of the mining company and there is a financial provision also. The available legislative frame work and the societal concern are two very important pillars which may ensure the restoration of mined out areas to near normal conditions. It will be very helpful if the sustained use of land, ensuring equally profitable gains to the society, will help to a great extent in erasing the ill effects of mining. The profit motive will sustain the society and provide the future generations with the means of livelihood.
Current Scenario The afforestation currently done and done in the past has helped in increasing the tree cover. The mined out areas look green. Fast growing plant species had been planted. The resultant forest is thus a green patch of trees of low economic value. They are good for fuel, fodder and stock for paper and pulp industry. Due to this reason the forests contribute only 1.3 % of GDP. It is the root cause of abject poverty of people living in the forests and its periphery. Tribal and farmers who constitute 70 % of our population live on very low level of subsistence. There is thus a great need to plant valuable trees.
The State of Forest Report 2003 shows that forest cover is 20.64% and the outside tree cover is 3.04%. The total tree/forest cover is thus 23.68%. The Ministry of Environment and Forests desires to achieve a target of 33% of forest cover by the year 2012. It is a Herculean task amid the ever growing demand on forests resources and land for increasing population and industrialization.
The fast growing trees deplete the ground water also. This affects the growth of other trees and even affects the drinking water resources for the people living in the forests. According the MOEF about 200 million people depend on forests besides their cattle. The MOEF has a vast afforestation programme. They are eying the waste land also for afforestatin as the vacant land is decreasing with in the forest areas for compensatory afforestation.
All this is very encouraging in growing more trees to increase the forest cover. The current efforts are again directed towards fast growing varieties with some thoughts about growing mulberry, jatropa and medicinal plants. They are needed by the society and may add some value to the forests in the years to come. Private entrepreneurs may also be inducted to help in raising plantation on degraded forests. States are being encouraged to prepare plantation schemes to help in the efforts of forests development. It is the right time to have rethinking in our strategies for future developments.
Outline of New Strategy It is a well known fact that our aim is economical development and increasing the earnings of the country men as a whole. The mining activity, as long as it goes on, compensates the people around to a great extent and they live a good life. When the mine closes the local people get affected immediately. There is thus a great need to help these persons to have alternative means of livelihood. The afforestation programme should thus aim at value addition to the planted trees and looking for new avenues for employment. The following points may be useful;
1. Valuable timber trees like teak, rosewood and sandalwood are planted. 2. Fruit trees plantation may be encouraged. 3. Orchards and gardens are created. 4. Efforts are made to develop eco-tourism sites. 5. Hill stations are developed as after independence no hill station has been created.
Growing valuable trees may take time to develop to the size for use. They can be grown on crop pattern. All the regions of the country grow specific type of trees. Trees with valuable wood can be selected and planted while doing afforestation on any land available for the purpose. Sandalwood, the most valuable wood, grows in many areas in Deccan plateau, and is considered as local specie. There are good prospects of growing sandalwood in and around the mines in Bellary Hospet area. Teak can be grown in the forest areas of Madhya Pradesh,Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and many states in Deccan area. The plantation of these trees will help in ensuring the availability of good quality timber in future.
Fruits are now being accepted as a food item in many Indian homes. Good quality fruits have become export items fetching good returns to the growers. Fruit business is getting streamlined due to the entry of retailers and they are keen to establish processing and marketing establishments. It is a cash crop and farmers are also getting interested. Fruit based industry may provide more jobs to the people in and around forests.
Creating gardens and orchards in mined out areas may also be possible. Mined out mine benches may be converted to terrace farms where vegetables and flowers can be grown. The benches are provided with soil cover to support vegetation. Flowers have a very fast growing market with export possibilities. Terraces are good land form for inducting irrigation net work working on gravity principle.
According to MOEF medicinal plant caters to the needs of 80 % of Ayurvedic, 46%of Unani and 33% of Allopathic medicines. Out of 47,000 plant species in India 15,000 are of medicinal values. The domestic trade in herbal products is estimated to be around Rs. 2300 crores. This is a very fast growing activity and need boost. India can earn up to Rs. 10,000 crores by the year 2010 as per current estimates. Govt. of India has constituted The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB). It will be very appropriate if the afforestation programmes include plantation of medicinal plants in large numbers. NMPB has a mandate to develop this sector and to help in removing the bottlenecks. The board will also work as a think tank and data bank.
Areas around mines may some times be scenic beauty spots. Such spots are numerous and may be projected and developed. The mine as long as it is productive, attracts people connected with mining. Awareness of the people towards forest preservation is growing. People are curious to know about forests, desirous of interaction with tribal and interested in learning crafts living styles of tribal. Ecotourism can easily be developed in miming areas as there is already some infrastructure and much more can be developed at low cost. It will provide employment to the locals and may encourage selling of forest products and crafts. People visiting forest areas may act as eyes and ears of the authorities and will eventually help in forest and wild life conservation. The concept is now evolving and societal and administrative mechanism is under development State Tourism Departments may help in popularizing ecotourism and should encourage tourist traffic.
Since independence lure of hill stations has grown and many flock to the popular hill resorts. These resorts are unable to cope up with the influx. There is acute shortage of accommodation, water, parking and commercial space. The Deccan plateau flanked by Eastern and Western Ghats has many mineral bearing hillocks where mining activities are going on. The mine closure plan may include the creation of a mined out areas which may support parks and gardens, water bodies, infrastructure and housing. The mining company, the state govt. and the Tourism Department may join hands. There are many mines in the region where the working heights are generally between 800 to 1200 metres. The temperatures range between 15 to 35 degrees of centigrade. There are many established hill stations, such as Mount Abu (1220 M), Anantagiri (600-900 M), Horsely Hills ( 1265M), Matheran (800 M), Panchgani ( 1100 M), Khandala 625 M), Lonavala (1150 M) and Chikaldara (1120 M). Many iron and manganese ores mines in Deccan can qualify to be a hill station. Growing environmental awareness and mine closure legislation may be very helpful in encouraging the development of new hill stations. It is quite possible that mining may be modified to create proper landscape, water bodies and gardens to help in creating a hill station after the mining operations stop. It is a good idea and the state Governments may include such places in their development schemes. There are already plans to convert Kudrumukh mines to a hill resort.
Developmental Philosophy Awareness for conservation is new as well as the legal frame work. Many unresolved issues are there such as the jurisdiction of states and the central government. Issues related to Tribal are with in the jurisdiction of Ministry of Tribal Welfare. One important issue is-"once a forest always a forest". If we think about developing forests many rules related to forests may come in the way. Broadly no non forest activity is permitted in a forest area unless a proper permission is obtained. Once the activity is over the land returns to the forest department. The strategies suggested above may change the land use. How far this may be possible is a matter to be debated and broadly acceptable way out to be evolved.
If we intend to develop orchards, flower beds, fruit tree groves, high values trees and medicinal plants we may have to obtain permissions to do so. The land use may change for ever. How for this may be allowed is yet to be resolved. The valuable plantations may need high level of security. The current security level in the forests is rather very low. The increased economic activity may need personal as well as material safety. Presently our forests are unsafe because poachers and timber mafia roam freely in the forests. The forest cover is gradually dwindling. There is thus a need to evolve appropriate mechanism before we adopt new strategies. Currently forests are environmental needs and the economics of land use has not yet been considered a forest specific activity.
Human development needs put pressure on the forests and lot of forest areas are cleared to provide lands for societal needs. Forest development and the development needs can be dovetailed to achieve both. Forest development related laws can be amended to permit human settlements in the forests and be permitted to start the activities suggested above.
There is a need to study in depth the pros and cons of the new strategy so that both the objectives of forest conservation and societal need are fulfilled. This will need a new legal frame work which can be evolved after mutual consultations amongst the stake holders.
Afforestation with value addition may help in increasing the incomes of the people living in the forests. A synergy between forest conservation and appropriate industrialization of forests will certainly help in developing employment opportunities for people living in and around the forests. Such people constitute 70% of our population. They subsist on wages between Rs. 20 to Rs 40 per day. The present 1.3 % GDP accrued from the forests can be increased many folds with not much of investment as the activities suggested may run concurrently with the mining and the other related afforastation programmes. Mining is a site specific industry and cannot be done else where. Unfortunately, our mineral wealth is predominantly scattered in forest areas. Lack of development of forests and peripheral areas creating large scale unemployment giving rise to social conflict. This needs urgent attention and a need to evolve a mechanism to achieve enrichment of forests.
Dr. A. K. Dube
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