The Telangana Forest Department has retrieved at least 160 acres of encroached and degraded forest patch in the core area of the Kawal Tiger Reserve and converted it into a lush green forest.
The patch falls under the Khanapur forest division near Devunigudem village in Nirmal district. The transformation started in 2015 with the first edition of Telangana Ku Haritha Haram—state's tree plantation program.
The forest department had convinced the locals against staking claim to the forest patch and conducted a massive plantation drive at the site. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao participated in the drive and around one lakh saplings were planted in a single day.
"We undertook a labour-intensive plantation drive rather than a semi-mechanical one to ensure that natural vegetation growth does not get affected. We then involved locals, who had once encroached the forest patch, in the plantation and protection activities," Khanapur FDO U Koteswara told The New Indian Express.
Koteswara said that species including wild fruit trees like neredu, regu, and chintha were planted during the drive to ensure floral biodiversity. In order to protect the saplings from cattle grazing, thorny bushes were planted around the forest patch.
Soil moisture conservation and groundwater improvement works were also taken into consideration. He said the team has spotted deer, sambar, monkeys, and other animals in the forest area.
Erik Solheim Reacts
Meanwhile, former UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim shared a video on his official Twitter handle and praised the Telangana government on the greening efforts.
"Bravo Telengana! This Indian state is a world leader in tree planting and greening of the land. Ku-dos to Team Khanapur for their dedication of 7 years to convert 160 acres of encroached land into a lush green forest in Nirmal," he tweeted along with the video.