Introduction to Afforestation

Introduction to Afforestation

The National Commission on Agriculture recommended under extension forestry, the raising of plantations of quick growing species on land on the sides of roads, canals and railways lines (Anon, 1976). The land available along the sides of roads, canals and railways lines presents a big potential of about 25,000 km2 (Tiwari, 1981) for raising plantations of suitable species to produce various tree products needed by society. Plantations are now being raised on such lands in different States under Social Forestry programs, the species being planted and nursery and plantation techniques being followed are as variable as the site and climatic conditions, but the common objective is that of raising these plantations for the maximum benefit of society. As the requirements of the people vary from place to place, so do the objectives of raising these plantations. To suit wide variations in site factors and the climatic conditions and to meet widely differing objectives of management, the species to be planted and the techniques to be adopted may vary from place to place. The protection measures required to protect such plantations will also vary, according to the damaging agents and the nature and magnitude of the damage done.

The plantations rose on strips of land along the roads, canals and railway lines will generate a resource whose utilization may catalyze, transform and improve the rural economy. These plantations are expected to serve as the most important and effective tool in the economic development of the rural areas besides providing much needed comforts to the travelers using the roads. The demand of the rural population for fuel wood is expected to be substantially met from these plantations which will help in diverting the cow dung from the health to the field and in consequently increasing agricultural production. The fuel wood to be produced in these plantations can be conveniently transported to the consuming centers. The requirement of the villagers for small timber and even constructional timber is expected to be partly met from these plantations. This objective is already being realized in some areas of Haryana and Punjab where road side plantations of Eucalyptus have attained maturity and are being harvested.

Besides fuel wood and timber, leaf fodder is another important product expected from these plantations. The leaf fodder of some tree species is almost as contributes as that of the leguminous fodder crops. Further, the trees are capable of producing as much green fodder crops per unit area as the agricultural fodder crops. Through a suitable mixture of the species the production of leaf fodder, fuel wood and timber can be maximized, leaf fodder trees will, however, require effective protection measures against browsing and lopping, particularly in their early years. Because of the difficulty in protecting the plantation of such trees at a reasonable cost, the leaf fodder trees are not getting their rightful place in strip plantations.

The planting, tending and harvesting of strip plantations to be raised along roads, canals and railway lines will provide employment to the rural people almost as their doorsteps without making them move to cities. These plantations will help in solving one of the major problems of rural India, un-employment. From the stage of nursery rising to the harvesting and processing of wood, the strip plantations to be raised in the country are going to provide employment to millions of people. The rural poor are going to be the main beneficiaries from this additional Employment generation.
The importance of such plantations in the aesthetic and environmental improvement of the country side cannot be minimized. These plantations will help in restoring the biological balance in the rural areas which has been upset because of indiscriminate expansion of agriculture at the cost of forest vegetation.

During the last thirty years, an area of about 25,000 km2 of waste land, which carried forest vegetation of one kinder the-other, has been cleared end brought under, agriculture (Anon; 1981). The consequent upsetting of the biological balance has resulted in an appreciable increase in the population of rodents and in the incidence of pests and discuses of agricultural crops. In several tracts, cleaning of forest vegetation has led to an increase in alkalinity in loamy soil especially in areas adjoining unlined canals. Canal side plantations will help in mitigating this evil to some extent.

The Strip  Plantations will Serve as an Important Support to Agriculture through,

(i) Diversion of cow dung to be used as manure,
(ii) Their beneficial effect as windbreaks and shelter belts,
(iii) Restoration of biological balance
(iv) These beneficial role in reducing alkalinity especially along with canals and drains,
(v) Supplementing fodder supply
(vi) Improvement of economic conditions of the weaker sections which will enable them to provide better inputs for agriculture.

These plantations will thus help in the all-round development of rural areas.
Avenue planting along the roads has a long history in India. The concept of avenue planting is as old as the Vedic period (Chandan Singh, 1973). The Padma Purana mentions that man planting trees by the way side will enjoy bliss in heaven for as many years as there are fruits, flowers and leaves on what he has planted. The advent of the Aryans been commonly associated with the general development of communications in the country (Chaturvedi, 1938) the planting of trees along the roads. It was, however, during the period of Ashok and later during the region of the Moghuls that the foundation of proper roadside avenues was laid (Sagreiya, 1941).The Moghuls, however concentrated on the creation of oases around Saris and Masques at intervals of about 5 Kilometers. The Maratha also took up the construction of roads and planting of trees along them

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