India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh has claimed that between 2017 to 2021, the government along with citizens has planted 100 crores (1 billion) trees in the state.
The current state government which was formed in 2017 has been planting more trees with every passing year. According to the state government, 650 million (65 cr) saplings were planted from 2017 to 2020, and another 300 million (30 cr) saplings are being planted in 2021.
The intensive tree plantation drives in the last 5 years are done jointly by the Forest Department and various other state departments.
The tree plantation campaigns have also helped in increasing awareness in people about the importance of trees and the environment. As per the announcement, about 50 million (5 cr) trees were planted by citizens, NGOs, schools, and other organizations during the year.
In its efforts to restore old trees, the state government has also decided to tag “heritage trees” i.e. those trees that are older than 100 years. Besides, the government also plants to conserve the endemic tree species of the state.
The state forest department has also launched a unique initiative, “Smriti Vatika“, whereby gardens will be established in the memory of those who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The forest department is the nodal agency for plantation and monitoring of trees. The government has emphasized on safety and monitoring of trees through measures like geotagging.
Uttar Pradesh Forest Cover
Uttar Pradesh has three distinct regions namely, the Shiwalik region in the north, Gangetic plains in the central region, and Vindhyan hills in the south, with many major rivers flowing through the state – Ganga and the Yamuna being the most prominent. The fertile land is opportune for trees like Sheesham, Neem, Peepal, Teak, and other native trees, but the most prominent Tree species in Uttar Pradesh is Mango.
Considering the major part of the state is agrarian, this has necessitated massive plantation programs in recent years to increase the forest & tree cover. A 2019 report of the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has revealed that Uttar Pradesh has recorded a huge rise in its green cover.
Based on the interpretation of satellite data of the period Oct 2017 to Jan 2018, the total forest cover in the state is 14,805.65 sq km which is 6.15 % of the state’s geographical area.
The Uttar Pradesh forest cover increased by over 125 sq km compared to the 2017 report (from about 14,680 sq km to 14,806 sq km).
The FSI report is published based on satellite data compiled by India’s Environment Ministry biannually.
Impact of Uttar Pradesh Green cover
Uttar Pradesh happens to be the fourth largest state of India, spread over an area of roughly 246,000 sq km, equal to about 7.3% of India’s total land area. Uttar Pradesh is not only the most populous state in India with more than 230 million people, but the state is important from an economic perspective as well.
In recent times, Uttar Pradesh has become the second-largest state of India in terms of gross state domestic product (GSDP). The state’s GSDP in the 2020-2021 financial year was more than $265 billion, surging ahead of industrialized states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
For a growing state, its forest cover is also equally important. Trees are needed to maintain the climate and temperature of the place and any decline in green cover leaves a long-term impact on the air pollution, biodiversity, livelihood of these areas.
Improving its ranking compared to other states
India’s central government is encouraging all Indian states to expedite tree-planting drives to increase forest cover, part of commitments made at the 2015 climate change summit in Paris.
If we look at the top 10 states in India (in terms of geographical area), Uttar Pradesh is second from the bottom in terms of forest cover. States like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra which have larger geographical areas compared to Uttar Pradesh are far better in terms of forest cover.
Fighting Pollution and Climate Change
As per the data compiled by IQAir, Uttar Pradesh has 10 cities in the top 20 lists of the World’s most polluted cities in 2020 (PM2.5).
The cities Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, and Bisrakh Jalalpur are ranked two, three, and four respectively. The state capital Lucknow is the 9th most polluted city in the world, while the industrial centers of Noida, Greater Noida, and Kanpur are sixth, seventh, and eighth on the list.
The increase in Uttar Pradesh forest cover will help in greater absorption of greenhouse gases, reduction in particulate matter, and keeping the air clean.
The increase in Uttar Pradesh Forest Cover is important because the state is one of the major tourist destinations in the country.
Uttar Pradesh boasts of the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world apart from Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India, and Allahabad, the holy confluence of two major rivers – Ganga and Yamuna. There are other prominent cities like Lucknow, Ayodhya, Mathura, Jhansi which have their own cultural & historical heritage.
According to the Indian Tourist Statistics, in 2019, Uttar Pradesh attracted the highest number of domestic tourists in the country with a share of more than 23%. The state bagged the third spot in terms of the arrival of foreign tourists.
A tourist destination that is green and its air clean has more chances of attracting tourists.
Forest resources provide economic sustenance for billions of people around the world, Uttar Pradesh is no different. Many species of trees are used for wood, food, medicine, fuel, fodder, fiber, organic fertilizers, and a host of other products.
Here is what UP Forests mentions:
“Sheesham is mostly used for furniture while Khair yields Kattha, which is taken with betel leaves or pan. Semal and Gutel are used as matchwood and Kanju in the plywood industry. Babul provides the principal tanning material of the state. Some of the grasses such as Baib and bamboo are the raw materials for the paper industry. Tendu leaves are used in making bidis (Indian cigarettes), and cane is used in baskets and furniture”
Uttar Pradesh ranks on the top in mango production. The state share in the total mango production was more than 20% in 2016-17. Regions like Lucknow, Saharanpur, Varanasi, Faizabad are major mango production hubs, supplying mangoes domestically, and also exporting to other parts of the world.
Mango Trees comprise more than 30% of the tree species found in Uttar Pradesh. The locally grown fruit trees in urban and semi-urban settings not only provide delicious food, but it helps in clean air and provide green jobs.
Growing trees and forests are the easiest and cheapest methods to absorb the highest amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. In addition, forests that are rich in biodiversity are economically and physiologically beneficial.
However, to increase Uttar Pradesh forest cover to any reasonable level would require serious efforts towards conservation, restoration, and regeneration of the state forests.
Here is a great report by ORF on Harnessing the Power of India’s Forests for Climate Change Mitigation.
There is a tree in Uttar Pradesh which as per scientific evidence is more than 800 years old, but as per the local legends is more than 6500 years.
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