In a bid to protect nearly 73 lakh saplings which were planted less than a year, 19,000 persons have been appointed as 'van mitras' (forest friends) across Punjab, reported The Indian Express.
These plant protectors have been appointed under MGNREGA by the Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat Department in all the villages of the state where 550 saplings each were planted last year to mark the 550th birth anniversary of first Sikh master Guru Nanak Dev.
With a poor rate of survival of saplings - around 20 to 25 per cent - Punjab had appointed these protectors at the onset of the summer season. This is the time when the growing plants need special attention such as proper watering, protection from fire, pruning, and safety from animals.
"Every village will be having two van mitras and they will be engaged for three years till the time the plants can to survive on their own," Avtar Singh Bhullar, joint director, Rural Development and Panchyat Department, was quoted by the media.
"The the main purpose of plating the saplings will be met only if they survive completely," he added.
The project has been initiated by the Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Bhullar said. He further added that he recently visited some villages in Kapurthala district where the plant protectors have already started their work.
"I am feeling a sense of attachment with these plants to an extent that I feel these are like my children. How can I tolerate any damage to them," said Rajwant Kaur, a van mitra from village Amanipur.
Last year in November, the Punjab government had celebrated the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district, the place where the Guru had attained enlightenment. To mark the occasion, the government had planted 73 lakh plants across 13,000 villages of the state.
"All kinds of plants, including fruit-bearing and ornamental, were planted last year. Now, with the appointment of van mitras, we can replace the saplings that got damaged with new saplings so that our target of saving all of them could be met," said Block Development Officer, Sultanpur Lodhi, Gurpratap Singh Gill.Also Read: 'Greening Chandigarh' Action Plan: UT Administration To Plant 2.55 Lakh Saplings In 2020-21