Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai Saturday asked forest department officials from the rank of district forest officers to the principal secretary to stay in forests for 15 days a month.
The chief minister made the remark while speaking at a function to celebrate the golden jubilee of Karnataka State Forest Development Corporation Limited.
“Senior officials are based in Bengaluru. You are not coming out of your offices. Go to the forests, stay there for 15 days a month. It will boost the morale of other personnel of the department. It will send the message that senior officials are engaged in protecting the forests,” Bommai said.
Bommai asked the officials to set a target of improving the forest cover in the state from the present 23 per cent to at least 30 per cent over the next five years.
He also advocated for a change in the objectives of the Forest Development Corporation. There is no need to focus on making profits, the focus should be more on extending the forest cover, the CM said.
“We need not grow eucalyptus for paper manufacturing. Stop planting eucalyptus and acacia trees which are not conducive for our ecological balance. Think about planting alternative species of plants and trees,” Bommai said.
“For the first time in the country, the state budget this year has an exclusive ecological budget segment which seeks to offset ecological damage. About Rs 100 crore has been allocated for the ecological budget or the green budget… Ecological balance could be maintained if the initiative is sustained in the years ahead. The state government is ready to grant an additional Rs 100 crore if the allocated Rs 100 crore is utilised effectively,” the chief minister said.
He is assured cooperation of the state government in improving the financial condition of the Corporation and called upon the officials to take up afforestation drives on a vast scale, especially in arid areas and the northern Karnataka region.
“A special scheme has been formulated to encourage farmers to cultivate sandal trees. It should enable the farmers to boost their income,” Bommai said, asking the officials to simplify regulations for sandal cultivation. He also emphasized the need for greater thrust on agroforestry.
Stressing the importance of preserving biodiversity in the Western Ghats and increasing the green cover in Karnataka, Bommai asked officials to prepare a vision document on forest development for the next 50 years.