Joint committee report to the NGT on forest plantations at Tikri range, district Gonda, Uttar Pradesh, 06/05/2023

Factual/inspection report in compliance to the NGT order dated March 1, 2023 in the matter of Original Application No. 125/2023, News item published in Rashtriya Sahara dated February 3, 2023 titled "Podhon ka paa nahin, nirai godai main lakhon ka khel" (plants missing, game of lakhs in plantation). A media report said that in the name of plantation at Tikri range, district Gonda huge funds were being diverted in collusion with the forest officers.

The District Forest Officer, Gonda in its report said that plantations are successful to the extent of 98.50 per cent and the media report is not factually correct. The joint committee constituted by the orders of the NGT said that Tikri range is constituted of 7416.87 hectare of tropical moist deciduous forest.

The committee studied the records of all the 48 sites planted in 2022 rainy season and discussed the project estimates as per components provided from preparation of saplings, treatment of area of plantation, pit digging, plantation, weeding and irrigation frequencies.

The committee report said that the plantation sites were predominantly covered with Sal and other associated species and were basically gap plantation - where plantation is done in the forest where sufficient gap is there in canopy for survival of the saplings. The species planted were predominantly Teak, though other species like Jamun, Karanj, Imli and Asan were also there.

The saplings planted in rainy season of 2022 were present and "as per ocular observation and random counting on 8 sites, where the plantations were undertaken the survival was more than 90 per cent. This is at par with prescribed standards.

The joint committee interacted with the stakeholders and listed their observations before the National Green Tribunal. The committee found most of the representatives were from local bodies, panchayats and were aware of plantations carried out in their area.

They reported the plantations are of good quality in the initial year of establishment and will be valuable in future. There is predominance of teak in all plantations carried out by the forest department. The reason stated for high teak proportion is its hardiness and less palatability to stray cattle.

There is a presence of stray cattle inside the forests since decades, this forest residing stray cattle have been given the name 'van gaiya' by villagers. The villagers informed the committee members that the behavior of van gaiya is different from normal livestock. They are more aggressive towards people as they have very less interaction with people. In forest plantation the grazing pressure is more by van gaiyas than normal stray cattle living in the village surroundings.

The general observation was that the state forest department is doing everything to protect the plantations. People's representatives were of the view that useful and fruit bearing plants like bamboo, amla, kathal, guava and mango tree should be planted in community and private areas.