Shimla, Aug 7 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh, with a quarter of its geographical area under forest cover, has been undertaking measures to expand its green cover in what its forest department calls the country's mega micro-level public afforestation drive to plant one crore saplings in 15,000 hectares this monsoon.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh launched the drive by planting saplings of indigenous species like "arjun", "harad" and "amla" during the 67th state-level forest sapling plantation programme at Neras village in Bilaspur district in June, a forest department official said on Sunday.

The Indian State of Forest Report of 2015 said an increase of 13 sq km of forest land has been recorded in the state due to concerted efforts in conservation and management of the forest wealth.

The hill state has become the first in Asia to earn carbon credits. It has received the first installment of Rs 1.93 crore.

Carbon credits provide a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving the stakeholders, including the panchayats, a monetary value.

A credit gives the owner the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide. Credits can be exchanged between businesses or bought and sold in the international market at current market prices.

To supplement the efforts, all government schools and 3,000 youth clubs would participate in a plantation drive on the eve of the International Youth Day on August 12.

Similarly, all the government institutions, NGOs and the public have been roped in by the forest department to participate in the plantation drive during this monsoon.

Records of the forest department said 1,7429 hectares were brought under forest cover in 2013-14 by spending Rs 1.66 crore. Likewise, in 2014-15 and 2015-16, the corresponding figures were 1,2730 hectares and 11,449 hectares, respectively.

Besides, 45.30 lakh medicinal plants were planted in 2013-14, 46.70 lakh in 2014-15 and 43 lakh in 2015-16.

During the plantation drive, plantation of broad leaves, wild and medicinal, was done so as to generate employment opportunities to the villagers.

The forest department planted various species alongside the roads constructed under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna last year.

One lakh saplings of "shahtoot" (mulberry), "jamun" (jambolan), "saru" (cypress), "shisham", "sapheda" (ceruse), "peepal", "deodar" and "neem" were planted.

The maintenance period in plantation areas has been enhanced from three to five years and seven years under catchment area treatment plan so as to increase plant's survival rate, said the official.

He said fencing is being encouraged for preventing deforestation.

Intensive forestry works have been started under Green India Mission in Mandi, Bilaspur, Hamirpur and Kangra districts.

Under the National Bamboo Mission, a project with an outlay of Rs 3.24 crore is underway during this fiscal in Nahan, Bilaspur, Mandi, Hamirpur and Kangra districts.

With the assistance of the National Medicinal Plant Board, five projects are being implemented for the development of medicinal plants at a cost of Rs 24 crore in Kangra, Una, Chamba, Kullu, Sirmaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts.

The Himachal Pradesh Forest Eco-System Climate Proofing, a German Development Bank project of Rs 310 crore, was started in April last year in Kangra and Chamba districts.

A memorandum of understanding was signed for grant of two million euro under this project and the amount would be utilised for training programme of forest officials and development of local communities.

Under the project, Rs 2.40 crore has already been spent, while Rs 40 crore is being spent under afforestation programmes.