GANGTOK, 15 June: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today informed that Sikkim’s forest cover has increased by four percent since 1994 thanks to the consistent implementation of pro-environment policies of his government which first came into power in 1994.
The Chief Minister shared news of this achievement while at a Forest Department function organized today to flag off State Green Mission on Phase-V of its implementation and announces the “Ten Minutes to Earth” initiative for the year.
“Since the time we came to power in 1994, we undertook policies and measures to protect environment and our forests and as a result the forest cover has increased in Sikkim at a time when it is shrinking everywhere else,” said Mr. Chamling.
Sikkim’s forest cover in 1995-96 was 43.95 percent and now, according to a report of the Ministry of Environment & Forests for 2009, the forest cover stands at 47.59 percent.
Speaking to an audience of officials and students, the Chief Minister admitted that some of the decisions in favour of environment and forest conservation like the ban on grazing in forest areas and removal of cow sheds from the forests were difficult ones, but pursued by his government to ensure that future generations received nature in better health in Sikkim.
“The State government had to face a lot of criticism but we went ahead with our mission to conserve our rich biodiversity for our future generations,” said the Chief Minister.
He also pointed out that his Government had succeeded in conserving its natural wealth without compromising development.
Presenting the State Green Mission as an initiative to involve the people in conservation efforts, the Chief Minister appealed to the people to participate in the mission whole-heartedly.
He further observed that the Green Mission fits in perfectly with the eco-tourism thrust of the State government and pointed out that it will not only increase the forest cover but also facilitate sustainable development and make Sikkim a truly eco-friendly tourism destination.
After 4 years of overseeing the Green Mission, the CM also had some critical observation to share. 90% of the participation in the State Green Mission was just for publicity, with the participants more eager to pose for publicity stills rather than planting properly or ensuring that the saplings were looked after later, he said.
The Chief Minister also today officially announced the “Ten Minutes to Earth” initiative for 25 June.
The State Green Mission and “Ten Minutes to Earth” programme will henceforth be held on every 15th and 25th of June, he announced.
Addressing the students, he announced that a Green Fund was being set up for schools in Sikkim so that environment conservation measures could be undertaken in and around school campuses and students, through their participation, groomed as more environmentally conscious citizens.
Regarding the future plans and policies for the protection and conservation of the environment, the Chief Minister said that Clean Air Act, Water Quality Act, Environment Policy Act, Pesticide Act, Endangered Species Act etc. will soon be introduced in the State.
The Forest PCCF-cum-Secretary, ST Lachungpa, informed the meeting today that 5 to 6 lakh saplings and flower seedlings have been planted in the State every year since the Mission started in 2006. The initiative was now bearing fruit and the forest cover and natural water sources have increased and improved, directly benefiting the people, he added.
The Forest Secretary further informed that the Green Mission was recording a survival rate of around 70 percent, which was very healthy.
Conservator of Forests (Territorial) Pradeep Kumar also made a Presentation on the State Green Mission today and shared that the Mission had won a very positive involvement with the people.