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HP Forest Department gears up to weed-out 'Lantana'
Lantana, an exotic obnoxious weed, which is infesting around 185000 hectare of forest land in Shiwalik hills of Himachal Pardesh is not only posing threat to the forest wealth, but also reducing the productivity status of land, thereby affecting livelihood of the people. The grave problem has sounded alarms to the concerned agencies of the Himachal Government to treat the area occupied by the wild species on priority.

Foreseeing the peril being caused to cultivable land and forest areas due to this weed, particularly in the lower belts of Himachal Pradesh, the Forest Department, has decided to do away with the problem by resorting to planting fruit bearing and other eco-friendly species of plants on 5000 hectare of land being infested by Lantana.

Apart from this, a decision has been taken by the government to conduct massive afforestation drive by planting medicinal and broad leave plants, which could serve the purpose of food, fodder and fuel for the habitants of the area besides the nomads.

Not only has the department geared itself for treating this dreaded sprawling weed under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority of India (CAMPA), Green India Mission Fund of Government of India and partially under MNREGA funds, but also Participatory Forest Management Committees comprising the local population are being involved to control the spread of Lantana.

The government is stressing on awareness of the people on environmental services of the forests. Moreover, a target has been fixed to bring 20000 hectare of uncultivable land under afforestation.

Out of total geographical area of the state i.e. 55,673 square kilometers, 37033 sq. km, 66.52% is legally classified as forests. Besides, as per the forest Survey of India Report, 2011, the state has an area of 3,224 sq. km under very dense forests, 6,381 sq. km under moderately dense forests and 5,074 sq. km under open forests. While the rest of the areas comprise shrubs and barren land etc.

Besides, an area of 10385 Sq Kms has been covered through plantation activity till 2011-12. Due to concerted efforts of Forest Department in the direction of Afforestation, the State has witnessed enhancement in forest cover from 11780 Sq. km in 1991 to 14679 km in 2011, thus resulting in an increase of 2899 square km forest cover in the state. As per forest survey of India report, an increase of 11 square km has been noticed since 2009.

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