For more than eighty years, the Indian Army has been serving the nation. Not just on the military front but by also paying close attention to Mother Nature. In order to restore what is damaged during natural calamities or wars, the Ecological Task Force (ETF) of Territorial Army (TA) executes ecological-related projects.
The first of its kind in the world, ETF is a focused group of ex-servicemen who works to preserve nature after retirement. “It is the first time in the world that an army has taken on greening operations,” says Major-General Jasbir Singh, chief of the Territorial Army (TA).
The first battalion of the Ecological Task Force (ETF) was set up in 1982 under the TA.
The ecological battle is being fought on three fronts: the sprawling Rajasthan deserts, the mine-scarred Mussoorie hills, and the rolling Samba wastelands in Jammu and Kashmir.
The first ETF project was undertaken by 183 battalions in Rajasthan, 80 km off Bikaner and 63 lakh plants have been growing around the 50 km stretch.
The Indian Army has not restricted itself to any zone. In the Himalayas, the Indian Army is a key stakeholder and is in control of vast areas where it can exercise a major influence on the Himalayan ecology. It also participated in the ‘Clean Ganga’ campaign in 2015 in ordinance with the Ministry of Water Resource where they guided the troops on cleaning the banks and afforestation.
The sole purpose of setting up an Ecological Battalion by Indira Gandhi in 1982 was to provide purposeful work to retired jawans so that they can still work and contribute to the society. ETF works on military grounds only with its strict rules and deadlines and that is why such a change is visible in the Northeast in such a short span.
These battalions are self-sufficient in raising the nurseries and contributing time in their healthy growth. Once the restoration is completed, the green-land is handed over to the state and the task force is deployed to another place where it is required.
The ETF use innovative methods when it comes to more productivity in less resources. They have successfully grown plants in arid regions, re-vegetation to decrease humidity, grown trees of apple, cheeky, mango, blackberry, date-palm to serve localities in the desert, grown medicinal plants and used empty tetra packs for drip irrigation.
At present, eight ETF battalions (of nearly 1,000 men each) are located at Dehradun, Pithoragarh, Shri Mohangarh, Samba, Kufri, Delhi, Sonitpur and Kokrajhar.
They have been on their toes no matter how adverse the conditions. Be it danger lurking in Kashmir or Maoist threats in the Northeast, the servicemen keep up their strong will-power and serve without any expectations.
It is really odd that very low public awareness exists for this initiative. Even though these men have contributed hugely to our planet and once again proved that they are the true soldiers of country.
It’s good to know that the environment has some actual soldiers on its side today, especially at a time where it seems to be under attack from all directions.