Forest Minister Benoy Viswom announced here on Friday that the government had finalised a proposal to plant 70 lakh trees across the State under the second phase of the Haritha Keralam scheme.

He was speaking after inaugurating the Nakshatra Vanam scheme launched by the City Corporation to plant trees inside the Putharikandam Maidan at East Fort, now undergoing beautification.

Mr. Viswom said the saplings for the Haritha Keralam scheme were being prepared.

The scheme, he said, would be implemented by the departments of Forest and Local Self-Government.

Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is scheduled to inaugurate the scheme at Nedumbassery on June 5. The Minister said various youth organisations were being mobilised to support Haritha Keralam. Religious institutions would also be urged to plant trees on their premises.

Executive order

Mr. Viswom said 1.25 crore trees had been planted in Kerala over the last four years under various afforestation programmes launched by the government. “We could ensure 50 to 80 per cent success for these programmes.”

The Minister said the government had also issued an executive order mandating a site inspection by a statutory committee before a tree was cut down by an agency for any purpose. The order also required the agency to take up compensatory tree planting. The objective was to save as much of the urban tree cover as possible.

Urging the City Corporation to plant avenue trees wherever possible, Mr. Viswom said it was the only method to beat the inevitable consequences of rapid urbanisation and rising carbon dioxide emissions responsible for global warming. “Cities increasingly need green lungs to ensure clean air for citizens. There is an urgent need to preserve open spaces, water bodies and trees.”

The Minister later planted a sapling at the Maidan.

70th anniversary

Mayor C. Jayan Babu, who presided over the function, said the Corporation had finalised a scheme to plant 70 trees in each ward to mark the 70th anniversary of the local body this year.

V. Sivankutty, MLA, Deputy Mayor V. Jayaprakash, chairmen of standing committees, UDF council party leader Johnson Joseph, councillors and officials of the Corporation and Forest Department and scientists from the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) at Palode were present.

The Nakshatra Vanam scheme involves the planting of 150 trees belonging to 40 species in the sprawling grounds. These also include trees representing different birth stars in the Malayalam almanac.

The saplings have been sourced from nurseries of the Forest Department and the TBGRI.

The central portion of the 8.6 acre Maidan is to be maintained as an open space.

The beautification project estimated to cost Rs.6.5 crore, includes the construction of a multi-level stage with a lift at the eastern side, rainwater harvesting system with a reservoir, parking area, a small paddy field, modern lighting and extensive landscaping with paved footpaths all along the periphery.