The much-hyped Green Punjab Mission of planting 40 crore saplings in the state in the next eight years, launched by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, is up against a stiff challenge in the first year itself with the availability of saplings in the state much less as compared to the target set by the forest department.
Though the number of saplings to be planted every year under the plan works out to be 5 crore on an average, the forest department has fixed a target of planting 2 crore saplings this year.
However, even this target is unlikely to be achieved as the number of saplings available in government nurseries across the state is 1.4 crore, as per the figures obtained from the forest department office.
Though the forest department has also tied up with Punjab Agricultural University to obtain saplings, the university, given the paucity of space, will not be able to provide more than 6 lakh saplings. Facing a gigantic task, the forest authorities are struggling to meet the shortfall.
In Patiala district itself, there are just 9 lakh saplings available, while the target for the district for the current year is 25 lakh. "We will arrange the saplings on our own," said district forest officer SK Sagar.
But how they do it remains to be seen since there are not many private nurseries in the state and the saplings sold by them will work out to be very costly. The prediction of a deficient monsoon is also adding to the worries of the forest department.
Some senior officials told HT on condition of anonymity that they should have been intimated about the Green Punjab Mission much in advance so that they could make prior arrangements.
"The final draft of the programme was prepared in June, only a few days before the arrival of monsoon. It will be really tough to achieve the targets in the rainy season," said a senior forest official.
Every deputy commissioner in the state has set targets for departments and issued strict directions to meet them. The departments would carry out plantation in the land available with them.
However, principal chief conservator of forests HS Gujral said the department was geared up to meet the targets.
"We may face problems in the first year, but things will fall into place in subsequent years as we will be setting up 55 new nurseries and expanding the existing ones," said Gujral.