The highlight of my summer has been to camping trips to the incredibly beautiful Adirondacks Mountains. It is a long chain of thickly forested mountains occupying 6 million acres, which is one third of the state of New York. Hundreds of thousands of acres of this forest was destroyed by fires in early 1900s and were rebuilt using and “NREGA-like” program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This breathtaking view I had from a fire tower in the Adirondacks reminded me of how much we could do with such employment programs.
CCC has made an incredible contribution in the US by planting millions of acres of trees, planting nearly 3,000,000,000 trees and taking up other issues of forest management including building fire towers, pest control and other issues. The impact of Rosevelt’s Tree Army can be seen even today.
In India, the Minister for Environment and Forestry, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, has made welcome remarks that his government will take up afforestation in a big way. Jairam Ramesh is one of the pioneers who helped NREGA become reality; I hope his vision for afforestation will prominently include a role for NREGA and through this demonstrate the potential that wage employment programs can have for India.