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Creating a Record-Winning Green Cover

This afforestation drive in Telangana is as unique as it can get. And a large credit for the stupendous achievement- duly acknowledged by the International Wonder Book of Records and even making the UN sit up and take note- goes to the District Magistrate Venkata Rao IAS and the State Minister Dr. V. Srinivas Goud.

In a striking pro-conservation move, one which has figured in the International Wonder Book of Records, over 1.14 crore seed balls have been planted in Telgangana’s Mahbubnagar district in a span of nine days. This would considerably enhance the green cover of the district, which at present stands at less than 10 percent.

The entire initiative- supervised by Mahbubnagar District Magistrate (DM) Mr. Venkata Rao (IAS)- saw the involvement of 6,000 Self Help Groups (SHGs) as also large-scale community participation.

FIRST, THE IDEA

In an exclusive interview with Indian Masterminds, Mr.Venkata Rao said “target-oriented conventional plantation was being made every year inclusive of all the departments as the district was dealing with a lack of forest cover which is as low as 9.95 percent. However, due to a lack of community participation the targets were not being met.”

He added, “In the meantime, Dr. V. Srinivas Goud, the Minister of Prohibition and Excise asked me to conduct a 20-lakh plantation drive in KCR Mayuri Urban Eco Park in the month of June. This is India’s largest urban park, spread over 2,087 acres. After consultation with District Forest Office, Horticulture office, and other agriculture staff, we figured out that it is impossible for us to conduct this drive even within one year with conventional plantation. This is when I started searching for various ways of conducting such a large-scale plantation drive in the district. Soon I came out with the idea of seed ball bombs.”

Mayuri Central Nursery

Thus, with the help of the DM Mr. Rao and the Minister Dr. Goud, a unique way to increase the green cover of Mahbubnagar was launched by the state Government in 2015 under the prestigious program ‘Telangana Ku Haritha Haram’.

Mr. Venkata Rao initiating the seed ball drive

Production of seed balls is mainly aimed at rejuvenating hilly areas through development of forests. The balls add nutrients to the seed and can be planted in areas even where there are no favourable conditions for plantation.

After checking with the concerned officers and with a large community participation of SHGs, Mr. Rao planned for conducting a plantation drive of 60 lakh saplings.

THE EXECUTION OF PLAN

A one-day orientation training program was organized for the preparation of seed balls. Similarly, the training program was also conducted at the `Mandal’ level for Mandal Mahila Samakhya Executive committee members, Village Organisation Assistants at the village level, and the Self-Help Groups in coordination with the District Forest Department and the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).

Mandal level training

The DRDA initially planned to plant 112 lakh seed balls in 14 Mandals of the district. However, after the completion of the seedling procedure, a total of 1,14,88,061 seed balls were planted all over the district by 284 village organizations, 5,880 groups, and 69,200 members. The seeds were thrown manually and also with the help of drones in various areas of the Mahbubnagar. Ten varieties of seed balls were made, which included tamarind, custard apple, banyan, peepal, and neem.

Dropping seed balls all across the district with the help of drones

Mr. Rao said, “I was surprised after I saw that 1.14 crore seed balls have been scattered all over the district. This was more than double of what I planned! I also reached out to the Guinness World Record but due to the peak of Covid pandemic, they were unable to conduct personal supervision.”

“I conducted three audits so far, which were also made by the community through supervisory staff,” he added.

THE APPRECIATION

This unique initiative caught the attention of many. It was appreciated by the Sixth UN Environment Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Erik Solheim, who tweeted, “Over 50 million seed balls have been bombed on hillocks, and in forest areas in Telangana, India. The women’s self-help groups are playing a key role in this brilliant tree-planting effort. Well done!”

KT Ramrao, Minister of MA&UD, Industries, and IT&C of Telangana also appreciated the initiative. As the initiative was conducted within 9 days, it was also selected in a special category in the International Wonder Book of Record for 2020.

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