In order to retain the depleting green cover in forested areas, a Thane-based environmental organisation with the aid of the Forest Ministry and civic authorities will undertake a massive forest redevelopment project.
Two main forests, Kelni and Mamnoli, in Thane district will be replenished entirely with different kinds of trees.
The move comes after the state government proposal to plant 100 crore trees in the state's forested areas from next year.
Acknowledging that only 16 per cent of the land in the state is covered by trees, which is below the national average of 33 per cent, the state government last week under Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad proposed the planting of 100 crore trees at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore on 10 lakh hectares of land across the state in the coming year.
A tripartite agreement will be prepared between the forest department, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) and Enviro-vigil, an environmental NGO, which will initiate the scheme to upgrade the barren plots of land in Kelni and Mamnoli forests by planting thousands of trees.
According to environmentalists, these forests have lost their green cover because of ad hoc planning and will be redeveloped for the first time in 40 years. "Out of 69 hectares, about 30 hectares of land is barren in Kelni forest. With the direction of the forest department we'll plant indigenous species of trees, organic and medicinal plants. In Mamnoli forest, we'll plant bamboo," said Jayant Kadhalkar, member of Enviro-Vigil, also known as Paryavaran Dakshata Manch in Marathi.
The scheme in Kelni and Mamnoli forests will require planting of local species of trees, including bheda, havda, jamun, vad, karanj and peepul, by involving schools across Murbad, Bhiwandi, Kalyan and Thane. Certain areas will be allotted to the schools to look after. The organisations have roped in Thane Janata Sahkari Bank and Dombil Nagri Bank and other corporate sectors for providing funds to reconstruct the forests, where negligence on the part of the civic and ruling authorities has robbed the place of its beauty and greenery.
"We are inviting a large number of people, from students to businessmen. Once they start realising the importance of forests, they will be do everything to protect it. This project will provide some methodology and protection to the forests," said Prof Vidyadhar Walawalkar, director of Enviro-Vigil. "People are not aware of the fact that Thane was 70 per cent green, while all nine talukas in Thane were forest earlier and there was a huge forested land called 'vanvasi belt', which has almost disappeared."
Deputy Conservator of Forest G T Chavan said the project will begin simultaneously across all forested land as the plan is to gradually cover all districts of the state, which hold 3,58,656 hectares of forested land.