The students of altogether 374 schools of Himachal Pradesh have come forward for the cause of environment protection and have planted 2.53 lakh saplings in 295.35 hectare area under Vidyarthi Van Mitra Yojna.

A state government official said such schools had been identified in this regard that had set up active eco clubs and suitable open or degraded forest areas for plantation of indigenous tree species, which can be maintained and protected by students.

This would develop a sense of contribution and association among students with plants. In the year 2018-19, about 228 schools were covered under the scheme and 1,66,830 saplings were planted in 164.30 hectare area by the students.

In 2019-20, around 146 schools were covered and 86,702 saplings were planted in 131.5 hectare area by the students under the scheme, the official said.

He said the rapid economic growth had had a telling effect on the natural resources of the country and that conservation of forests was one of the foremost priorities of the state government.

“In Himachal Pradesh, 37,948 square kilometre area is forest area and 15,433.52 square kilometre is green forest cover of the total forest area. About 16,376 square kilometre forest area is above the treeline, which is covered under snow all through the year. The Forest department is making all out effort to conserve the forest and is working towards achieving the target of improving green cover by 30 per cent till 2030 in the state. To achieve the target, the department has initiated several schemes to strengthen participation of people in conservation and development of forests through plantation. One such scheme in this direction is Vidyarthi Van Mitra Yojna which aims to create awareness by involving school students in conservation of forest and environment,” he said.

The official further stated that under Vidyarthi Van Mitra Yojna, the students and school administration play a vital role in identifying the site for plantation of saplings.

A micro plan for plantation is also prepared by school administration and Divisional Forest Officer provides approval for it. The department also provides necessary technical information for plantation under the scheme, he added.

The official also said that the students were not only responsible for plantation of the trees in the area earmarked for the school but maintains the area on long-term basis.

“The state government is laying stress not just in creating awareness among students on conservation of forest and wildlife but is also emphasising on conservation of the natural resources of the state for future generation with its effective management. Besides this, the government is also ensuring conservation of forests and wildlife for those communities that are dependent on resources generated from forests for livelihood,” he added.