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Expenditure Rs 200 crore, result almost zero

Faded signboards and empty or broken tree guards. That is all that remains of the plantation drives supposedly carried out in the Bundelkhand region over the last six years at a cost of Rs. 200 crore.

lucknow Updated: Aug 03, 2012 21:36 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal

Faded signboards and empty or broken tree guards. That is all that remains of the plantation drives supposedly carried out in the Bundelkhand region over the last six years at a cost of Rs. 200 crore.

The so-called drives have not made the region any greener than what it was a decade ago. Perhaps it is less green now than it was then.

A reply to an application filed by an RTI activist says the government spent the Rs. 200 crore to plant 16 crore saplings in Banda, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Jalaun and Jhansi.

"Most of us suspect that not all the money has actually been spent on plantation. Even when money has been spent on actual plantation, there is no follow-up to help the saplings survive at least a season. So, eventually, the plants die," says the applicant Ashish Sagar, an RTI activist based in Banda. He got no data for Bundelkhand's seventh district Lalitpur.

"I wanted to expose the farce," he added. There were vast swathes of land on which saplings were planted but they died.

Even the information that he did manage to obtain did not come quickly. Ashish filed the first application in August 2011 asking for the amount spent and the number saplings planted between 2005 and 2011.

He filed an appeal when there was no response to the application that he filed at the office of the chief conservator of forest, Bundelkhand zone, Jhansi, Uma Shankar Singh. When the appeal too went unanswered, Ashish approached the information commission, Lucknow.

After the third hearing at the commission, a penalty warning was issued to the office of the chief conservator of forest. It was then that Ashish got replies through registered post. The entire process took almost a year.

The information revealed that Banda, Chitrakoot, Mahoba and Hamirpur spent over Rs 25 crore each on the drive.

As many as 378,4000 saplings were planted in Banda, 4,3772,443 each in Chitrakoot and Mahoba, and 1,673,3780 in Hamipur. Jalaun spent over Rs.43 crore and planted 986,5952 saplings. Jhansi spent over Rs 54 crore and planted 4,500,9461.

Strangely, the number of saplings planted in Chitrakoot and Mahoba was exactly the same right down to the last digit.

Though Jhansi spent more than double the amount of Hamirpur, the number of saplings planted in Jhansi was not even half that of Hamirpur.

Even so, another plantation drive is going on in Bundelkhand districts this monsoon. Is more money being wasted? Time alone will tell.

Forest cover in UP region of Bundelkhand
Region's average: 7.26%
Banda: 1.21%
Hamirpur: 3.6%
Mahoba:5.45%
Jalaun: 5.6%
Lalitpur:6.5%
Jhansi: 6.6%
Chirakoot: 21.8%
(According to the national forest policy, a district's forest cover should be at least 33%)