Amritsar Forest Cover Increases by 16 Square Kilometers

February 14, 2012; the recent Punjab Forest Survey Report of the Forest Survey of India, revealed, that Amritsar, the Pilgrim City of Sikhs has shown forest cover increment by 16 sq. km. It has been notified that since 2007-2011, around 1 Million trees were planted every year under the leadership of S. Kahn Singh Pannu, who was the Deputy Commissioner of the Amritsar for these four years. The National Forest Survey Report has declared that while the national forest cover has fallen by 367 sq km, Punjab has increased its green cover by 100 sq km. Thanks to Punjab environment lovers.

KS Pannu watering a tree sapling with army officer and others at Amritsar

“The objective was to protect the serenity of the Divine city of Guru RamDas Ji and to protect Golden Temple surroundings from pollution”, said Mr. KS Pannu. “Out of these 4 Million trees planted in 4 years of time, 1 Million trees were planted in honour of our seventh Guru, Sri Guru Har Rai Ji beginning from his GurGaddhi Diwas or Sikh Environment Day on March 14, 2011”, he added.

“The first Sikh Environment Day day was held in March 2011,” said EcoSikh India Coordinator, Ravneet Pal Singh. “And it has been so inspiring to see how many Sikh gurdwaras and organizations and communities have carried the message of Sikhism being an environmental faith, so actions have lasted throughout the year.”

In November 2011, Amritsar was announced as one of the founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network, with plans to create green maps, gardens, recycling, trash clearance, distribution of saplings as prasad in most of the temples and an annual celebration of Sikh Environment Day on March 14 every year.

“With its succesful tree-planting programme, but also with its vision of making itself a finer city to live in for both people and nature because it is sacred, Amritsar could become one of the models of green action for India,” said EcoSikh Program Officer from the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation, Victoria Finlay.

“It has been impressive to see how many members of the Sikh community – who have been brought up to see the importance of protecting the vulnerable in society – have embraced the idea, that the environment is one of the vulnerable elements of society that needs protecting. All the residents, committees and NGO’s of Amritsar has shown this commitment with their extreme co-operation with their city leader, Mr. Pannu,” said EcoSikh President, Dr. Rajwant Singh.

Mr. Pannu, now Chief Administrator of the Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority, has been very passionate in improving the environmental conditions – both by prevention of negative activities and promotion of positive ones – as was seen during his six months of tenure as Chairman of Punjab Pollution Control Board until the end of 2011, or his role as DC of Amritsar for four years before May 2011.

In these four years various local government and non-government organizations were involved in long plantation drive. While most trees were planted within the Galiara Project of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee with Nanhi Chhan and ‘Go Green-Go Clean’ campaign, in the rest of the project Military authorities, Pingalwara, Khudai Khidmatgara, MC Amritsar, Baba Sewa Singh Ji, The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Mission Aagaz,Baba Kashmir Singh Bhoori Wale, Amritsar Pollution Control Committee, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar Vikas Manch, Agriculture and Horticulture Departments, Amritsar Forest Department, Guru Nanak Dev University, Village Panchayats, Amritsar Civil Defense Association, Amritsar Mohalla Association, Improvement Trust all major local schools were associated in this huge success.

The story of Amritsar and leadership has set an example that non-forest cities can show huge improvements in their green cover under such collaborative efforts by locals. Also it has set a benchmark for all the DC’s of other cities and they should see such possibilities in their cities as well.

Links for Press:

Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC)

Forest Survey of India

Green Pilgrim Cities (Handbook)