Govt targets 2.2 million saplings this year but staff crunch looms

The Delhi government has set a target to plant around 2.2 million saplings across the national capital this fiscal.

This is a million lower than last year’s target, of which on 2.8 million has been planted till now. Officials attributed the shortfall to shortage in staff.

This year’s mass plantation drive has been planned for the third week of July, while Tughlaqabad Biodiversity Park has been identified as a site so far, said officials in the forest department.

“The plantation will be taken up during the monsoon between July and September, which is the best season for plantation. We plan to achieve at least 50%-70% of the target by second week of October. From last year’s target, around 2.8 million saplings have been planted till March 15, while the rest will be planted along with this year’s plantation drive,” said a senior official.

A decision regarding the number of sites for plantation will be taken up in` the first week of June. The department has asked all greening agencies including the municipal corporations, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and public works department (PWD), among others to identify sites for the mass plantation drive.

“Plantation is taken up at vegetation deficient areas, as waste lands or clear barren patches are not available in the city. In the South forest division, Tughlaqbad forest area has been identified as one of the main sites. Vacancy filling of tree species is taken up during the drive in all such patches in order to increase the green cover,” the official said.

The Economic Survey of Delhi 2018 had stated the city’s green cover at 20.6%.

At least 90% of the saplings to be planted this year will be native species such as jamun, peepal, gulmohar, pilkhan, sheesham and arjun, among others. “This year we plan to keep aside around four lakh saplings to be distributed for free to residents and student volunteers,” the official said.

The city government had taken up one of the largest plantation drives across the capital in September 2018 planting at least 5 lakh saplings in a day. The target for 2018-19 was set at 3.2 million saplings. The mega plantation was launched by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who said increasing green cover was the best way to fight the growing air pollution in the capital.

Of the 2.8 million planted so far, around 1.4 million are tree species while about 900,000 are shrubs while the survival rate of the saplings planted is yet to be assessed, said officials.

“The department has been raising the issue of filling up vacancies, particularly at mid-level posts such as field officers, forest rangers who can work on the ground to meet the huge plantation target. Besides, officers have to be deployed round the clock for maintenance of trees planted and protection of wildlife as well,” said another official.

According to experts, plantation drives are necessary to increase the green cover, but maintenance of the saplings planted remains an issue.

“Last year, the government had taken up a huge exercise, which is a good greening initiative. The survival rate of plants in the drives taken up in the past has not been satisfactory. I hope the agencies are paying as much attention to maintenance as much as on the number of saplings planted,” said Fayaz Khudsar, scientist-in-charge, Yamuna Biodiversity Park. “During plantation drives, the department must go for an ecosystem approach with tree canopy, shrub layers and ground vegetation as the three layers that will help fight pollution by reducing carbon dioxide. Even among native species, Neem, Peepal, Pilkhan and Banyan are keystone species that need to be planted less in terms of area of the forest.”

First Published:
May 23, 2019 03:49 IST

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