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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

On the banks of Yamuna at Garhi Mandu, saplings are doing well

Almost a year ago, on September 8, 2018, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had planted a banyan tree at the site while launching the Delhi government’s mega plantation drive.

delhi Updated: Aug 13, 2019 04:04 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Around 5 lakh trees were planted on a single day – the highest ever the national capital had seen in recent years on a single day.
Around 5 lakh trees were planted on a single day – the highest ever the national capital had seen in recent years on a single day. (Getty Images/ Representative image)
         

It was 12 noon. Though the cloudy sky was helping to beat the sun’s scorching rays, the heat was oppressive because the air was almost saturated with moisture. A dozen labourers could be seen working on an open field on the banks of the Yamuna at Garhi Mandu, replacing old dead saplings with fresh ones.

Almost a year ago, on September 8, 2018, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had planted a banyan tree at the site while launching the Delhi government’s mega plantation drive. Around 5 lakh trees were planted on a single day – the highest ever the national capital had seen in recent years on a single day.

Garhi Mandu has the second largest plantation with nearly 60,000 saplings planted across 60 hectares after south Delhi’s Jaunapur with 75,000 saplings.

With the onset of the monsoon season, the greening agencies have again started their annual plantation drive spree. This time, the government plans to plant around 24 lakh trees against last year’s target of 32 lakh.

HT takes a look how the previous year’s saplings were doing.

While most of the saplings planted at Garhi Mandu looked healthy, the frail ones were being replaced by labourers. A part of the forest area is open for morning walkers and joggers. The interior portions of the forest are even greener, where there was no human intervention as such.

A senior forest official said thatb esides good maintenance, survival of specific species depends on the region and the soil. “For instance, in southern ridge, which is rocky, the soil depth is too low. Specific species such as dhak, khair, desi babool, ronjh , amaltas and other such varieties grow well here.”

Similarly, in the Yamuna floodplains, which have alluvial soil, the officer said, species such as arjun, jamun and kadambari grow well in riverine ecosystems.

The overall target has been reduced this year because of the shortage of barren land. Waste lands or clear barren patches are not available in the city because of which plantation has to be carried out at vegetation-deficient areas.

“We are going for a more qualitative approach to take care of old saplings and grow more in areas that are deficient. As there is scarcity of land, we are finding out areas where there have been forest fires or taken up by weeds, where replantation could be done. We have already asked all agencies to conduct third-party audits to ensure survival,” said Ishwar Singh, principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) of Delhi.

According to officials, ensuring 80% survival of saplings in an urban setting such as Delhi has its own challenges such as encroachment, littering and dumping of waste. Besides, the city has geographical limitations such as extreme dry conditions, soil conditions that are deteriorating because of concrete dumping and large-scale infrastructure development.

During an inspection conducted by then Delhi forest minister Imran Hussain a fortnight after last year’s mega drive, the minister had asked greening agencies to water the saplings every day to maintain their health.

“There is too much variance in climatic conditions. In plantations as large, we have to depend on monsoon, as these could not be watered every day. Usually such areas are watered once a week. In many pockets where we have developed city forests, people have made holes in the boundaries to dump waste and even animals stray in, which takes a toll on new saplings. We had to employ round the clock security,” said a senior forest officer.

Green activist Padmavati Dwivedi said, “Every year a good variety of native species whose height and total number of each variety being planted must be recorded. A simple way is to colour code saplings year wise. Both regular watering and protection from grazing is crucial for their survival.”

First Published: Aug 12, 2019 23:48 IST

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