And the result: at 20%, Delhi’s forest cover falls short of the desired 33% of the national target. But the gap is still it was, because, actually the problems were in the way these drives were carried out, said Ek Kadam Sansthan.
Most of the part of this plantation happened in areas such as Asola Bhatti, where the department of forest and ecology experts got a complete authority to plan and execute the afforestation drive. But the remaining areas faced casual approach and badly planned drives; trees were either planted too close or high-caring species were planted.
According to the Auditor General of India report in 2009, the Delhi government gave permission to cut more than 31 thousand trees between the year 2005 and 2008 with a condition that 2.99 lakh saplings will be planted. As per the report, neither could the plantation target be completed successfully nor was the balance plantation charges of over Rs 6 crore recovered from the responsible.
According to the report, only 1.8 lakh trees were re-planted and also the government failed to recover the cost of balance plantation (1.19 lakh trees at the rate of Rs 650 per tree) from the defaulters.
While things have got better, with strict implementation over the years, Delhi has routinely missed out on its every plantation targets. What is worse, in the absence of a third-party audit, don’t have a record of saplings survived after the first year of plantation and maintenance has been done.
Plantation and aforestation drives are actually on to reach the goal of increasing Delhi’s forest cover to 25% in the next five years. The plan is to plant 12 lakh saplings this year itself, mostly in the eastern banks of the Yamuna river, Asola township and Najafgarh areas.
Of this, around 5 lakh sapling will be planted by the department of forest, 2 lakh by the Delhi Development Authority, 2 lakh by the municipal corporations, one lakh by the PWD, 1 lakh by the Delhi Parks and Gardens Society and around 50,000 by the Delhi Cantonment Board.
“A successful afforestation drive takes a minimum of three years to show results but better to care for 5-6 years. Care has to be taken about what species are being planted and where, because of the difference in the soil quality. A good tree cover attracts birds and after that, it becomes easy as birds help in seed dispersal,” said Tarun Coomar, chief conservator of forests of Delhi.
Now again, it’s a question that, what we learnt from our failures and what are changes added in our future plantation and performance measurement plans. Otherwise, the same story will repeat again and again.