CONTRIBUTION OF THE ARMED FORCES TOWARDS CONSERVATION OF OUR ENVIRONMENT
1. General. Current environmental scenario poses an extraordinary threat to the planet. The challenge posed by Global Warming has made policy makers worried and action plans to overcome the problem are being formulated at national level. Indian Army since independence has been torch bearers of the nation in all walks of life. Like its primary role to defend the country, Indian Army has taken the responsibility of environment conservation with same seriousness. Army’s role in National effort for environment conservation has been appreciated over the years. The men in Olive Greens have always made nature their partner and have traditionally contributed to its preservation and development. Lush Green Cantonments and Military Stations thriving with local flora and fauna are illustrative examples of preserving nature.
2. The aspect of Army’s role in eco conservation is evident from encouraging participation of local population and development of cantonments as the ecological role models. Initiatives started way back in last decade with raising of eco cells at formations for conception/planning of projects. In addition, Territorial Army (Eco) battalions have been raised in some states with the ex-servicemen of that state for implementing some major projects. Some of the significant initiatives undertaken by Army are highlighted in subsequent paragraphs.
3. Thrust Areas. To effectively fulfill our commitment for environment conservation, we have established a multi echeloned organization at various levels. The Indian Army Environment and Ecology Cell (IAEEC) functioning under the aegis of QMG’s branch at Army Headquarters level coordinates all activities associated with environment conservation. The Thrust Areas identified for environment and Ecological activities are:-
(a) Afforestation and Arboriculture.
(b) Rainwater Harvesting.
(c) Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation.
(d) Use of Renewable Sources of Energy.
(e) Environment Education and Awareness.
(f) Waste and Wetland Development.
(g) Pollution Control.
(h) Garbage Management and Waste Disposal.
4. Raising of Territorial Army (Eco) Battalions. Eight battalions have been raised in the Army. These are carrying out exceptional work in environmental conservation and have been created to execute specific eco related projects such as reclamation of mines, soil conservation and afforestation, by using their technical expertise. These unitssince their raising have undertaken plantation of nearly 3.63 crores(36.3million) plants over an area of 35,083 hectares and also constructed more than 5000 check dams. Their synergised efforts along with the state agencies has had a significant and visible ecological and economic impact in the areas of employment.
BHATTI MINES AT DELHI
5. Wildlife Conservation. Recognising the importance of Armed Forces in Wildlife Conservation, Chief of Army Staff has been nominated as member on National Board for Wildlife and Brigadier rank Officers in State Board for Wildlife. Ministry of Environment and Forests has also requested Army to help them in Wildlife Conservation in border areas by nominating Formation Commanders as Honorary Wildlife Wardens. 45 Field Commanders have been trained so far in three courses. Efforts are on for grant of legal powers to ibid Honorary Chief Wildlife Wardens. Army has been helping in conservation of endangered species in remote and inaccessible areas of J & K and North Eastern States. Army is instrumental in providing administrative support for conduct of survey and research in these areas to both Government and Non-Government Organisations.
6. Afforestation. Afforestation is an ingrained routine in the Army culture, and units plant hundreds of trees every year. Some signal contributions have been made, which includes planting of nearly 4.47 lakh trees in 24 hours.
(a) Development of Cantonments. Support and supervisory staff at various levels has been put in place to monitor the implementation of environmental projects in military stations. Concerted efforts by Army has resulted in successful implementation of various initiatives such as arboriculture schemes, creation of bio-diversity and environment parks and establishment of green houses in High Altitude Areas.
(b) Initiatives in Forward Areas. The focus of the Army in these areas, till now, has been towards its operational requirements with limited focus to environmental matters. The problem is compounded as most of the Govt bodies and NGOs, involved in such environmental pursuits, do not address these locations due to their inaccessibility and remoteness. However, in the recent past, certain maj projects like rain water harvesting and compensatory afforestation have been taken up to address the environmental concerns in these areas.
8. Solid Waste Management. Waste segregation system incorporating separation and collection of recyclable plastics, metal and paper and composting of organic waste has been in practice in most of the cantonments. One of the most challenging and successful ‘Model’ project has been the waste management in very high altitude and extreme cold areas of Siachen and Leh.
9. Restoration of Degraded Areas. The TA (Eco) battalions have been extensively involved in implementing conservation measures including bio-engineering techniques for restoration of degraded areas, mainly those prone to landslides.
RESTORATION AND GREENING OF MUSSOORIE HILLS BY TA (Eco) BATTALION
10. Creation of Herbal Gardens. With financial assistance from National Medicinal Plant Board (NMPB) four Projects are being executed in Southern Comd. First half of the work is complete.
11. Water Security. The Army has undertaken a number of water conservation projects. Its efforts have been recognised at the national level. Rain water harvesting, use of efficient watering systems such as drip irrigation and installing de-salination plants and iron removal units in affected areas to promote optimum utilisation of available water resources.
WATER BODIES AND WETLANDS REJUVENATION OF WETLANDS IN GRENADIERS REGIMENTAL CENTRE, JABALPUR
12. Greening Himalayas. Besides water security initiatives, the Army has undertaken certain significant steps to improve the green cover in the Himalayas. These include:-
(a) Extensive plantation of socially and environmentally selected saplings, aerial seeding for fodder in selected areas, afforestation to arrest soil erosion astride roads including new roads etc.
(b) Construction of Green houses in HAA.
(c) Diversified agro-technology for sustainability is being introduced in consultation with DRDO laboratories in these areas.
13. Energy Options, Research & Development Projects. The Army has undertaken various projects towards energy conservation and utilisation of alternative / renewable source of energy. The following Research and Development Projects are under implementation /progress:-
(a) Development of solar photo voltaic systems for use in high altitude areas.
(b) Biomass technology for cooking and bio-based electricity generation.
(c) Mini hydel plants for electricity generation.
(d) Development of ‘eco friendly’ construction material for usage in high altitude areas.
(e) Participation in Bio Diesel Programme.
(f) Fuel cell as alternative source of energy.
(g) Self heating system for ‘Ready to Eat’ food.
14. Awareness Activities. A number of environment awareness programmes in military cantonments and in remote regions in mountains have been initiated. The impact of these initiatives is manifold and has caused paradigm shift in growth of environmental concerns. These initiatives have manifested both at grass root level (organising seminars, quizzes etc) and at the state and national level (undertaking development projects).
AWARENESS ACTIVITIES : PARYAVARAN MAHOTSAV
15. Community and Social Service Programmes. As part of community and social service programmes, the Army has carried out major eco projects mainly in proximity of their locations. Some of the projects which have been lauded by the public are listed below:-
(a) Expedition to Clean Up of Nanda Devi Sanctuary. Two expeditions brought back 1000kg and 235 kg of solid waste each.
(b) Restoration of Wetlands. Restoration of Harike wetland, de-weeding of UlsoorLake in Bangalore, de-polluting and cleaning up of MullaRiver in Pune and re-juvenation of nearly dried up Gyam Chhona lake at 17,000ft in Sikkim.
(c) The Army also encourages eco consciousness, education and awareness through its monthly magazine, Sainik Samachar and Batcheet also spreads awareness through its Sadbhavna initiatives in forward areas.
16. Awards. Army’s efforts in eco-restoration have been aptly recognised at the national level. Some of the major awards earned by Army units/establishments are tabulated below:-
Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar( Highest Award For Environment)
Green Governance Award by BNHS
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Green Award
Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award (1998, 1994).
Environment Conservation and Desert Development Special Award (2003).