Only 20% standing after 9 months of record plantation drive
Very painful! But almost 90% of the saplings planted in the Ambazari forest on July 1, 2016, during the 2cr have died due to lack of watering and attacking by grazing cattle. The drive was conducted under the Green Maharashtra mission.
The aim of the plantation drive was to tackle climate change and increase forest cover. Claiming that it had exceeded the target by planting 2.82 crore saplings in a single day, Maharashtra walked into the Limca Book of Records.
In Nagpur, the Ambazari reserve forest (758 hectares) was the district’s official site for plantations. Here, saplings were planted by Nagpur Metro (5,000), dignitaries, forest staff, NGOs, schools, social bodies and individuals (11,000) and individual NGO Anand Fiskey (2,000) in the presence of guardian minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule. However, barring 5,000 saplings planted by Nagpur Metro, almost all the plantations have died.
Barring a few patches, 298 by Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has survived. Compensatory afforestation of over 2 500 saplings by NIT too, has failed completely over 2,500 saplings by NIT too has failed completely. M & M’s Suresh Pandilwar, manager (employees’ relations & development) admits that it has failed miserably. “We watered the saplings for 3 months only. The saplings were small and could not survive owing to rocky land,” he said.
No forest official is ready to owe the responsibility for the failed plantations. Nagpur TSK Reddy said he has handed over the charge after promotion as APCCF. Joint director WI Yatbon of social forestry, which is the nodal agency for plantations, too said he has been promoted as CCF and has no idea. The social forestry department was to monitor the survival rate every three months.. Hingna RFO CH and area in charge, said 80% of plantations have survived. “However, mortality may be more due to recent forest fires,” he said.
TOI has learnt from sources that saplings were not watered adequately. For 13,000 plants only one tanker was deployed post-monsoon season, from October 18. Another tanker was pressed only from April 5, by which time most plants had died or were on the verge of dying. When Nagpur Metro plants can survive, why can’t the forest department, having expertise?
Patil says, “Metro planted 6-8 feet high saplings while our saplings were of small size. They planted non-forest species while we planted forest species, that too without damaging grass. Hence, our plantations are not visible in tall grass. It will take time for results.” Countering Patil’s claims.
Regular bird watcher in Ambazari Aniruddha Bhagat, says, “It is complete negligence. Only one tanker was used to water 13,000 plants. Metro officials are getting water from 5-6 tankers, besides they are also using drip watering system.”
Bhagat said lakhs of rupees are spent on fire lines to save forest but foresters have no clues how fires are raging. “No in peak summer, officials are planning to replant the saplings,” he added.
NGO Srushti Paryavaran Mandal president Sanjay Deshpande, who visited the spot on Tuesday, too says that the plantations have dried up due to neglect. “Even in rocky patches plants can grow if the right species are selected. Fires have caused huge damage to plantations and biodiversity,” he said.
“It seems to be a well-organized scam going on for years. Now again forest department will take up plantations in monsoon, and the same story will be repeated,” said activist Avinash Prabhune.
Here Ek Kadam Sansthan urges everyone to take participate in government drives and have a close observation on performance.