Prakash Javadekar

Union Minister for Environment, Forest and  Climate Change

As we celebrate the 69th Independence Day, these words of Mahatma Gandhi come to my mind, “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least as it was handed over to us.”  Indeed, maintaining the balance of the five elements – Prithvi (Earth), Water (Jal), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire) and Akash (Sky) is the natural responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.  Keeping in line with this principal mandate and responsibility, the Ministry has embarked on a mission to provide Clean Water, Clean Air, Clean Energy, Clean Environment and More Green to the people.

Children and youth carry the seeds of future and there can be no better combination than that of students and trees, as well as that of youth and nature.  That is why the endeavour of the Ministry has been to create programmes and schemes that bring the children and youth closer to nature and also ensure their active participation.   One such scheme is ‘Nursery School Yojana’ – an initiative to bring students closer to nature, by involving them in planting and raising saplings in nurseries created in schools. Under the Yojana, students from Class VI to IX, will sow the seeds, grow saplings in the school nursery, as part of practical exercise for Biology classes and extra-curricular activities for students of other streams.   At the end of each academic session, the students will carry the grown sapling, along with their academic report cards as a trophy, to their home and plant these grown saplings in or around their home and neighbourhood

The underlying theme of the Yojana is to plant a tree for sustainable future and to make the nation clean and green.   The Yojana has been launched in  1, 000 schools this year.   ‘Plant a tree for sustainable future’ and ‘Teens adopt greens’ are the guiding spirit of the Yojana.

Every school must earmark space to prepare a small nursery where the saplings could be planted.   Working with soil and seeds, growing saplings and also carrying a sapling for planting in their home, or neighborhood will not only help children how to live with nature, but also love nature through their experiences.   Each school will get an initial first-time financial grant of               Rs. 25, 000/- for the creation of Nursery with essential facilities.

Saplings of a wide range of species, including medicinal plants were distributed to the students under Nursery School Yojana.  Some of the species of saplings include – ‘Neem’, ‘Jamun’, ‘Amaltas’, ‘Kachnar’, ‘Bahera’, ‘Amla’ and ‘Bigonia’. Herbal plants including ‘Tulsi’, ‘Lemon Grass’, ‘Giloi’, ‘Ashwagandha’, ‘Haldi’ and ‘Ilaichi’. A packet of seeds too was given to students, which included species such as ‘Kachnar’, ‘Papdi’, ‘Kaner’, ‘Neem’ and ‘Bigonia’. Around 5, 000 saplings were distributed to school students and some nearby residents.

The main objective of the Nursery School Yojana is to create an everlasting bond between the young students and plants and trees. Some of the other objectives of the Yojana include – providing an opportunity to the students to learn about nature and work with soil, develop among the students an organic linkage and positive emotions for the environment, keep the schools and the neighbourhood green, enable schools to distribute saplings to students to plant in their homes and surroundings and create an army of young, green warriors. Through the Nursery School Yojana, the Ministry will support schools to provide all the essential facilities for raising of saplings for use of students and schools.

A school Nursery will have a small space of a minimum of 100 sq meter for preparing beds for raising saplings and for nursery-related activities, including preparing, planting a mixture of good earth, soil and manure, filling earthen pots and storage of seeds. Each School Nursery is expected to create 1,000 saplings every year. The schools will be encouraged to take up composting, rain water harvesting and water recycling to inculcate best practices in young minds.

In an effort to impart a strong message against the use of plastic carrybags (below 40 microns), two schemes on a pilot basis involving school children were conducted in Shirur and Ratnagairi districts of Maharashtra.  Each programme was attended by more than 6, 000 children.  Similar programmes will be replicated in other cities with a population of more than one lakh in the months to come.

The Ministry has also proposed an urban forestry scheme namely ‘Nagar Van Udyan Yojana’ on pilot basis. The aim of this scheme is to develop at least one city forest initially on forest land ranging from 20 ha to 100 ha in cities having municipal corporations.  The Ministry will provide one-time financial support for development of the city forests and the scheme aims to create 200 city forests in the country in the next five years.

Let us therefore, celebrate this Independence Day with a renewed commitment to conserve and preserve nature and let our children and youth to lead us to a cleaner nation and a greener future.

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