Social forestry hobbles as 58 mandals reel under drought

Forest officials guiding students as they plant saplings under social forestry schemes, in Chittoor.

Forest officials guiding students as they plant saplings under social forestry schemes, in Chittoor.  

Foresters had planned to plant 1.6 crore saplings by December

The social forestry division is set to face a tough time with the declaration of drought in 58 of the 66 mandals in the district. The other eight mandals stare at a drinking water crisis.

Though the division’s officials in Tirupati, Chittoor and Madanapalle had planned to plant 1.6 crore saplings between July and December this year, the failure of the southwest monsoon has stalled their efforts. Only 19 lakh saplings have been planted so far.

Students leading efforts

The division, tasked with leading afforestation on barren lands, is now compelled to limit the planting to schools, with students sowing seeds on their compounds.

Instead of distributing timber-rich and fruit-bearing saplings, the division has been supplying plants such as tulasi, maredu and jama to students.

Speaking to The Hindu , Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) G. Srinivasulu said that in order to enhance the green cover, the division had planned to rope in farmers through agro-forestry. “Though rains have failed this season, that is from June to August, we are expecting showers in October and November. We want to get pits ready in all zones under agro-forestry.

By pitting early, we want to retain the moisture of the soil so that once it rains, plants grow. Even little rain would be enough for plants to grow.” The DFO said that to continue the planting, “we are now involving students to undertake planting on school and college campuses and also at their houses.

Plants with divine value such as tulasi, maredu, osiri are being distributed to devotees at temples under the Vriksha Prasadini scheme,” he said.

Contour system for beautification

As regards the beautification of hills with flower-bearing trees, the contour system was being practiced, said Mr. Srinivasulu.

“We are pitting in foothills and up hillocks through the contour system. Apart from this, we are giving priority to create water harvesting pits in all suitable areas,” he said, expressing hope that the rain deficit would be overcome by the northwest monsoon in December.

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