Hyderabad: Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on Thursday called for united efforts to revive lost forest cover in the State and warned of stern action against timber smugglers who resort to illegal felling of trees.

A special cell has been created which will report to the Secretary, Forest Department, about such illegal activities for further action, he announced.

Speaking after launching the sixth edition of Haritha Haram, the flagship green initiative of the State government, at Narsapur in Medak district, the Chief Minister sought people’s participation in reviving the lost forest cover in the State. He said he has directed the Police and the Forest Departments to strictly contain smuggling of forest treasure, and assured them of all the support they require from his office“Smugglers used to have political backing in the days of undivided Andhra Pradesh.

The indifferent attitude of the then governments resulted in the forests in the State vanishing. Now no one can save the culprits. I have already started gathering information and directed the officials to spare no one,” he said.

Chandrashekhar Rao said the Forest Department has been sanctioned 200 posts, and provided with 2,200 vehicles so that they can work efficiently. Asking the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) R Shobha to weed out elements in the department who help smugglers, he asked people living in the forest peripherals to become watchdogs.

“In addition to reviving 95,000 acres of forest in Medak district, authorities should take up additional greening under social forestry. Realise that it is we who have lost the green cover and are responsible for the mercury shooting up to 48 degrees Celsius. Movies used to be shot in the thick Narsapur forest as it is close to the city. I used to drive my own Fiat car through the forest when I was a legislator. What happened to that forest, where did it go?” the Chief Minister wondered.

He recalled the days when the rulers of combined Andhra Pradesh used to say that people of Telangana did not know how to cultivate, but today Telangana is one of the richest States in the country. “We will take up afforestation in a big way with huge funds. Telangana is a financially sound State. We have contributed 55 per cent of the nation’s paddy procurement this year, according to FCI. Telangana is providing door-to-door potable water through Mission Bhagiratha,” he said, listing out some of the achievements of the State. He pointed out that such outcomes are possible only if the government is determined to do good for its people.

Recalling the days when he as an MLA tried to organise “Siddipet Haritha Haram” and was unable to procure a mere 10,000 saplings, he said that today, Telangana had nurseries in every Gram Panchayat and every Panchayat had a tractor and trolley.

Under Manjira and Haldi Vaagu alone 4,500 check dams have been sanctioned to pump ground water level and help increase green cover,” the Chief Minister said. He suggested stricter implementation of distribution of six plants per family to be planted on their premises. “Ask them to name the saplings in the names of family members so that they take care of them like their own,” he said.

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