A woman making nursery bags with areca palms.

Agartala: Black polythene bags that are generally used to plant saplings in nurseries are slowly becoming a thing of the past in Tripura. Nurseries in the state have taken the ‘plastic-free pledge’ and are using biodegradable bags instead.

Aiming to reduce the use of plastic, the Forest Department of Tripura has set up the state’s first zero-plastic nursery in North Tripura district. 

As a substitute to plastic, areca palms are being used to make nursery bags where saplings are kept before plantation. Initiatives are also being taken to replace plastic-made agro sheds and PVC pipes with natural materials.

According to the Forest department, the prime objective of the project is not just to make a strong statement towards sustainable development but also to create employment opportunities for the local communities.   

The first two nurseries have been set up at Kanchanpur (Kanchanpur Forest Subdivision) and Kadamtala (Dharmanagar Forest Subdivision), both under North Tripura district, District Forest Officer Vignesh Harikrishnan said.

The Forest department of Tripura acts as a supplier of saplings to different departments such as Urban development, Agartala Municipal Corporation and other public and private agencies willing to carry out plantation drives. Being the biggest supplier of saplings, the department already has nurseries spread over vast areas across the state.   

“On an average, 3,000 to 3,500 kgs of polythene bags are used for the new seedlings for North Tripura District alone. Apart from that, agro sheds and PVC pipes also contribute to the total plastic used in nurseries. All these materials are being slowly replaced by biodegradable materials. But, the poly bags are completely out of use,” he said.  

The areca palm bags are being prepared with the help of local population and members of Joint Forest Management Committees. While admitting that use of areca palms are turning out to be a costly exercise for the forest department, the official said that use of these bags has provided a source of income to the local communities.   

“The cost of production is very high. In the initial stage, we were in doubt whether we could pull it off or not, but gradually things got sorted and people started showing interest. Now, we have replaced the agro sheds with locally-available thatches, and bamboos are also being used for fencing and erecting crucial structures within the nurseries,” he added.  

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