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Hyderabad: With copious rains this year, the Hara Bahara project in Telangana aims to drop about one crore seed balls in the forest area using drones this year. The effort is to cover 12,000 hectare across the State. The States’ IT and Forest Departments are driving this initiative.

The ‘Hara Bahara’ project was announced formally last year but pilots have been taken up earlier. The project has been hailed as pathbreaking for using drone technology to rejuvenate the degraded lands inside the forests.

City-based Marut Drones is the technology partner for the exercise. ‘Seedcopter’, an aerial seeding solution for rapid and scalable reforestation developed by it, will be used for dispersing the seed balls. The afforestation exercise using drones will begin next week and go on for about two months.

V Prem Kumar, Founder of Marut Drones, said the copious rains this year are likely to improve the survival rate of the saplings. Several agriculture valuechain have become partners in the project to supply the seed balls, which will be targeted into barren and empty forest lands. “About one crore seed balls will be dispersed using drones,” he said.

A field survey identifies the areas that need urgent attention. This data is used to determine the number and species of trees that can be planted there based on the soil, climate, indigenous seed varieties and historical growth data using AI. The path followed by the drones are geotagged, facilitating periodic drone monitoring of sown area to collect tree statistics.

The Hara Bahara project will accelerate State’s Haritha Haram programme, which aims to increase the green cover to 33 per cent in Telangana. The State initiatives are yielding green results and it has been ranked second in the country in terms of increase in forest cover by 632 square km, as per the India State of Forest Report 2021 prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
Social enterprise

Several partners are engaged in making the seed balls. They in turn employ people from nearby villages for making these seed balls, thus creating employment to the locals. The focus is on using fruit bearing and shade giving seeds.

“We have identified ten deforested areas in Telangana by the support of the Telangana Forest Department and are ready to disperse seed balls in these areas using drones,” said Gubba Kirana, CEO of Gubba Cold Storage, one of the participant companies in the drone-based afforestation drive. It is partnering with agri inputs player Syngenta to provide about one lakh seed balls to the afforestation drive under its `Our Seed Our Planet initiative’. The survival rates in the previous year has been between 22 to 45 per cent. The focus is on local species of trees, he said.

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Author: Howard Caldwell