Tsirang’s forest division with the help of about 150 volunteers planted over 35,000 saplings in Tsirangtoed yesterday to commemorate the social forestry day.

This is part of the department of forest’s target to plant trees in about 850-acre area across the country in the eight territorial divisions.

The plantation in Tsirang was carried out in a 49-acre forest in Tsirangtoed. The forest was cleared, making space for new plantation. Chief forestry officer, Dimple Thapa, said that one of the main reasons for clearing the forest was because Tsirang did not have barren land.

She said that it is a good concept to remove the unwanted trees and refill with trees that can serve some purpose.

“We’re focused towards enrichment planting rather than planting in a barren area,” she said.

The trees that were felled for new plantation were non-commercials ones.

“To promote commercial species and meet the timber demand in the future we’re focusing more on planting commercial species,” said Dimple Thapa.

Following directives from the department of forest, the plantation area was also handed over to the newly established state-owned enterprise Green Bhutan Corporation  Limited (GBCL). The corporation will manage the entire plantation across the country.

Chief Executive Officer of GBCL, Damber Singh Rai, said that huge area of the forest is lost every year to forest fire, hydropower and connection of high volt power line. To maintain the 60 percent forest coverage for all times to come, a comprehensive afforestation programme is so required.

With other major priority areas for the department of forest, there was a dilution of focus on the afforestation programme. GBCL was so established.

Looking at the total achievement of plantation across the country, although plantation began as early as 1950s, it comes to about 40,000 acres, said Damber Singh Rai.  “That represents less than one percent of the forest coverage in Bhutan.”

He added that there are numerous degraded or critical watersheds. While the department of forest is working on inventory in these critical watersheds, the GBCL will work more towards protecting these and afforest degraded watersheds.

“If we do not protect or afforest our watersheds now, our hydropower project will be in trouble in the near future,” said Damber Singh Rai.

The department of forest’s target of planting trees on at least 1,000-acre land every year will be consolidated in one or two areas so that the impact is visible.

Yesterday, at least 21 households of Chudzom gewog in Sarpang came together to plant more than 500 saplings in highly degraded land. It is the sixth year farmers the Chudzom farmers have planted trees on the social forestry day to protect soil erosion and land degradation.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang