GUWAHATI: The Assam government is planning to revive the glory days of the state’s timber economy. To make it the country’s plywood industry hub in the next few years, the government announced a mega plantation drive on Wednesday.
“The government will plant 1 crore tree saplings on a single on September 17,” said Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while announcing it as one of the many initiatives to help the state’s plywood industry compete against Haryana and Punjab.
Addressing the press at Secretariat Complex, Dispur, he said, “About 50 lakh people have already registered to participate in this initiative. Every registrant will be encouraged to plant a sapling in his/her private property and will be responsible for its wellbeing. After three years, we will inspect, and if its hale and hearty, the government will pay each Rs 300,” he said.
The Chief Minister also added that the quality and usability of the tree will be of top priority. “This is the model Haryana and Punjab uses to farther their timber economy. That’s why the plywood industry shifted to these states because previously, Assam was dependent only on its forests for it,” he informed.
Previously, Assam was home to several key forest-based industries, including plywood, veneer, pulp and paper production, as well as safety matchboxes. Among these, the plywood industry held a prominent position and ranked as one of the major industries behind the tea and petroleum. But today, due to exploitation, the timber industry is facing a serious crunch in the state.
He further informed that most of the tree saplings are of valuable species and 30 lakh of the total 1 crore have been procured from the nurseries of the Forest Department. “The rest, about 80 lakh, have been brought from other sources outside of the forest department,” he said, adding that next year, the number of saplings will touch the 3 crore mark. “This year, we’re a little late. Next year, we will prepone the drive to August. The plan is to increase Assam’s forest cover from 36% to 38%,” he informed.
To boost registration numbers, the government is also offering a reward of Rs 100 for each sapling selected. “The Forest Department has been allocated a budget of Rs 47 crore for this initiative, with the initial incentive of Rs 100 per registrant accounting for a significant portion of that amount,” he stated.