Steps to strengthen forest dept on cards: minister

Forest, Ecology and Environment Minister Ramanath Rai has said that the next budget will have several proposals to strengthen the Forest department.

“The next budget will see an increase in the incentive given to farmers for growing forest trees from Rs 45 to Rs 100 per tree in three installments over three initial years (Rs 30 + Rs 30 + Rs 40). Each municipality will have a ‘Sundara Vana’, a tree park, to educate the people about the forest wealth,” the minister said here on Tuesday. He was speaking after inaugurating a state-level workshop on ‘hebbevu.’

The minister said that Karnataka had made rapid strides in wild life conservation and the state was home to around 6,000 elephants and 400 tigers.

 Recruitment of forest personnel, who work on the field, would be taken up. Transfer of personnel would be made transparent with counselling. There will be a bar on transfer of personnel in the wildlife division before completion of five years.

Lauding efficiency of Forest department officials and personnel despite limitations in conserving forest cover and wildlife, the minister said, state government would take several more steps to strengthen the department and also to encourage people to join hands with the department in its conservation and development efforts.

“This year alone, 30 personnel of the Forest department have lost their lives on duty,” he said. One-minute silence was observed in honour of Murigeppa Thammanagol who lost his life last week fighting the wildfire at Kalkere range forest under Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BRT).

Former Forest secretary A C Lakshmana said that death of civilisations in the past can be attributed to the damage to environment and hence ‘forest horticulture’ was the only solution to the problems ailing farmers and also economy. “India spends Rs 39,000 crore per annum on importing forest produce. If the farmers in India start cultivating forest trees and export them, we can save precious money and earn a lot of foreign exchange. Besides, it will be a great service to the nation. It will also help in tackling drought,” he said.

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