Minister orders third-party audit of plantation drives
For the first time, all government agencies involved in planting tree saplings during the monsoons every year have been directed to carry out third-party audits to check how many plants survived.
“The forest minister, Imran Hussain, directed all agencies to carry out third-party audits of plantation done during the period 2015-18. The exercise should be completed within four months,” said a statement issued by the forest department on Wednesday.
This year (2019-20), the Delhi government set a target to plant more than 23 lakh trees and shrubs. More than 4.25 lakh saplings would be distributed free to RWAs, educational institutions and market associations.
Hussain urged all greening agencies to provide locations where large-scale plantations were carried out during 2018-19, so that an inspection could be carried out to check the survival rate of the saplings. “Even though some government agencies had done audits earlier, this is for the first time that all greening agencies have been directed to carry out third-party audits,” said a senior official of the forest department. The department had often come under the flak from experts, who pointed out that even though lakhs of saplings are planted every year, there is no record of how many actually survive. This was because there were no proper audits.
“This is a very good move by the state forest department provided it is done by an experienced agency such as the Forest Survey of India. This would help us to know the survival rate of plantations carried out in Delhi. If the survival rate is poor in any particular area we can try to find out the problem and come up with solutions. This would help us to increase the tree cover further,” said Prabhakar Rao, a member of Kalpavriksha Environment Action Group, and an expert on urban forests.
A 2018 CAG report had stated the plantation of 28.12 lakh trees in 2014-2017 could not lead to a commensurate increase in tree and forest cover, thereby raising concerns about the efficacy of government’s plantation drive.