Exclusive interview with Joginapally Santosh Kumar, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) Member of Parliament, who is spearheading a massive campaign to increase the green cover in the state
Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, dying forests and struggling wildlife are major indicators of the faulty consequences of human intervention in nature. Modern lifestyles have contributed heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere and brought about changes in the environment.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report estimates that in the next two decades the globe will probably reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming.
Though human intervention is the reason for environmental degradation, it is also human endeavours for mitigation that can be the solution. The Green Garland for Telangana, or Telanganaku Haritha Haaram, is the K. Chandrashekhar Rao government’s initiative for a green cover for Telangana. It aims to increase the forest cover from the present 24 percent to the ideal 33 percent. Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) Member of Parliament (MP) Joginapally Santosh Kumar has earned widespread recognition for his efforts to give a push to the Telangana government’s flagship programme to rejuvenate degraded forests and conserve and expand the green cover in the state through a massive afforestation drive.Santosh is seeking to enlist help and support from the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) community in this humongous conservation effort.
In an exclusive interview to Namaste Bharat, Joginapally Santosh Kumar spoke to Harsha Bhargavi Pandiri about his involvement in the drive to increase the green cover in the state.
Excerpts from the interview:
The Green India Challenge has not only caught the imagination of people, but you have been identified with it. How has this happened?
It was launched on July 17, 2018 with the slogan ‘Haraa Hain toh Bharaa Hain’ (If it is green, it is complete). It started in Hyderabad, and later spread among people and celebrities, encouraging everyone to plant saplings, water trees and safeguard flora.
What inspired you to take up the campaign?
Many years ago, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao initiated it as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Siddipet constituency and mobilised people to plant saplings and now thelaunch of Telanganaku Haritha Haaram has inspired him to take up the Green India Challenge (GIC) campaign.
‘Covid-19 has taught us the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and the importance of trees’
What are the contents of the book, Vruksha Vedam?
Vruksha Vedam is a collection from various scriptures. Published in 2020 by the GIC with my initiative, written by Mamidi Harikrishna and edited by Desapathy Srinivas, it has beautiful content. It explains the importance of plants, the medicinal and therapeutic properties of various plants. Our ancient scriptures mention trees which are explained in simple Telugu for creating awareness among the general public. The book also describes the relationship of many saints with trees by quoting the sayings of the saints.
How successful was the Koti Vrukshaarchana project? What were the challenges behind it?
It was a mammoth project involving planting one crore saplings on the occasion of KCR [Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao] garu’s [honorific like ‘ji’ in Hindi] birthday on February 17. Arrangements were made on a massive scale. I spoke to various individuals, professionals, employed, self-employed, including public representatives both at central and state levels and requested everyone to plant three saplings each at their homes, apartment complexes, parks, balconies, and wherever it was possible. We wanted to gift one crore saplings to KCR garu on his birthday. The idea was instantly liked and it became a hit. The success of Koti Vrukshaarchana gave us immense happiness, with the people’s participation. I was overwhelmed with the response of the NRI community who stayed awake to take part in the programme according to Indian time.
‘I urge the NRI community to become part of Green India Challenge by gifting a plant to their near and dear ones’
What was the response of Chief Minister Rao to the GIC?
KCR garu expressed his great happiness at this super innovative, unique and responsible initiative and planted a Rudraksha sapling. “I hope that the Green India Challenge will grow forever and continue to motivate all of us to be a part of nurturing and saving the environment. I congratulate Santosh Kumar and his team for this wonderful programme,” he said.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted your thoughts on the environment?
The lockdown taught us many valuable lessons. I was surprised by the reports on reduction in pollution worldwide. Covid-19 has taught us the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and the importance of trees, of conserving water and other natural resources. This is not a one-day job. It needs to be practised every minute in our lives.
What is the idea behind the Sweet Lime Day?
The pandemic has made people understand the health benefits of each plant, and people have become conscious of the food they consume. Telangana is one of the highest producers of sweet lime, known as battayi in Telugu, mousambi in Hindi and other regional languages of the country. It is a known fact that sweet lime is a rich source of Vitamin C, antioxidants, dietary fibre, potassium – all necessary components for our overall wellbeing. We announced May 10 as Sweet Lime Day
or Battayi Day and urged the public to buy it in large quantities. This unique concept paid off, with various NGOs, companies, apartments, gated community associations, even individuals stepping forward and buying around 200 metric tonnes of sweet lime, generating ample income for the farming community.
How will you take the GIC ahead?
The GIC is not confined to urban or rural areas. I adopted 2,042 acres of the Keesara Reserve Forest as part of ‘Gift a Smile Challenge’ on the occasion
of the birthday of K.T. Rama Rao, Minister for Municipal Administration & Urban Development,Industries & Commerce, and Information Technology and TRS Working President. This initiative has motivated others to adopt reserve
I was glad to hear that Bahubali star Prabhas came forward to protect 1,650 acres of the Kazipally Reserve Forest, and Hetero Pharma, a drug manufacturer, agreed to shield the greenery and life in 2,543 acres of the Mumbapur-Nallavelli
‘GIC is not for making or breaking records. It’s only to reward the future generation with a green planet’
What were recent activities under GIC?
The GIC is not for making or breaking records. It’s only to reward the future generation with a green planet. On the occasion of the completion of four years of the GIC on July 4, 2021 coinciding with MLA Jogu Ramanna’s 58th birthday, the people of Adilabad came forward to plant one million saplings in one hour. Later, in Mahaboobnagar District
Anganwadi, the Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA) Self Help Group women prepared 2.08 crore seed balls in 10 days and with the help of drones planted them at the KCR Urban Eco Park (2,097 acres), one of the largest in India. This was organised under the aegis of minister V. Srinivas Goud and set a Guinness record in seed ball plantation. On July 24, TRS working president and minister K.T. Rama Rao’s birthday, Mukkoti Vrukshaarchana, that is, planting more than 3.30 crore saplings state-wide on a single day, was organised. On July 27, 2021, the Big B, Amitabh Bachchan, participated in GIC by planting a sapling at Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad. He wished GIC great success.
‘We announced May 10 as Sweet Lime Day or Battayi Day and urged the public to buy it in large quantities’
How does one participate in GIC?
If you want to be a part of GIC, you are most welcome!
Just plant three saplings in your house, park, balcony or any other place and WhatsApp your selfie pictures to 9000365000. You will receive a message to download an app. Download it, upload your selfies. We will post it on our official social media pages. We are receiving quite a number of requests on how to take part in GIC. I am very happy that there is a behavioural change in choosing to gift a plant for various happy occasions
I urge the NRI community to become part of GIC by gifting a plant to their near and dear ones on various occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or any other happy occasions and present the future generation with a pollution-free environment.