The Centre envisages a ₹19,000–crore project to rejuvenate 13 major rivers by planting trees, officials in the Environment and the Jal Shakti Ministries said at a joint press conference on Monday.
These ‘forestry’ interventions are expected to increase the cumulative forest cover by 7,417.36 sq. km. in the vicinity of these 13 rivers and would prevent 50.21 million tonnes of CO2–equivalent in 10–year–old plantations and 74.76 million tonnes CO2–equivalent in 20–year–old plantations.
They would help recharge groundwater, reduce sedimentation, generate ₹449.01 crore from non-timber and other forest produce as well as provide employment of 344 million man–days.
The rivers are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Luni, Narmada, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna and Cauvery funded by the National Afforestation & Eco-development Board, (MoEF&CC). The two Ministries made public multiple voluminous Detailed Project Reports, for each of these rivers, prepared by the Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education, Dehradun, (ICFRE).
The 13 rivers collectively cover a basin area of 18,90,110 sq. km. or about 57.45% of the geographical area. Their length including 202 tributaries within the delineated surroundings is 42,830 km.
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The documents propose many kinds of afforestation for the rivers. They include timber species, medicinal plants, grasses, shrubs and fuel fodder and fruit trees. The document proposes 667 treatment and plantation models of which 283 treatment models have been proposed for the natural landscapes, 97 treatments models in agriculture landscapes and 116 models in urban landscapes.
Site specific treatments in terms of soil & moisture conservation and plantations of grasses, herbs, forestry and horticultural trees have been proposed for treatment of prioritised sites in the riverscape supported by GIS technique based on consultations with various stakeholders. Throughout this exercise, nodal officers from respective State Forest Departments were associated to coordinate with other line departments.
The DPRs say the State Forest Departments will be the key implementing agencies with “convergence of schemes of other line departments in the States”. Technical support would be given by the ICFRE.
These efforts would help India meet its international climate commitments of creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 -3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030 under the Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC; restore 26 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030 and halt biodiversity loss by 2030 under CBD and Sustainable Development Goals.
At Glasgow last year, India promised to reduce its projected carbon emission by one billion tonnes by 2030, meet 50% of energy requirements with renewable energy by 2030, enhance non–fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatt by 2030, reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero emission by 2070.