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Tree guards fetch LMC good green!

THE CITY has 3,050 tree guards?officially. Sources in the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) say that the number could be as high as about 15,000. For the LMC, these tree guards make good business sense. Through the business of making the city environment-friendly, the LMC earns about Rs 8 lakh?officially. Unofficially, the figure could be much higher.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 00:09 IST

THE CITY has 3,050 tree guards—officially. Sources in the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) say that the number could be as high as about 15,000. For the LMC, these tree guards make good business sense. Through the business of making the city environment-friendly, the LMC earns about Rs 8 lakh—officially. Unofficially, the figure could be much higher.

This seemingly simple, apparently environment-friendly- cum- beautification campaign is also a money-minting exercise for in the name of environment, advertisers along with some unscrupulous bosses are carrying out a green-fraud.
Neither the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) where a lot of work is done on which plants are ‘pollution-resistant’ and more suited for being planted across roads on which pollution is high, nor the forest department is taken into confidence before going ahead with the beautification-cum-environment promotion campaign.

For the focus is not on plants/trees. It’s on tree guards.

The game is simple. Plant a sapling along the eye-catching localities like Ganj, Lohia Path etc. Then contact the LMC saying that you wish to protect the sapling and help it grow. For your effort, put your/company’s name on all sides of the tree guard.

Pay LMC it’s fees and then forget about the plant. The plant would die in the absence of proper care. Your advertisement would not. You continue to get visibility till as long your tree guard remains. It’s an advertisement scam that is being run in collusion with the LMC in the name of protecting the city’s environment.

Next time you drive down from Charbagh towards Hazratganj, look closely at the road dividers and footpaths along the way. You would readily get to see tree guards with the name of the advertisers supporting the environment-cause. Now stop. And look for the plants and how they are being cared.

Says Dr Rakesh Tuli, director NBRI, “It’s true that not all plants can survive in areas where the pollution level is high. In high pollution zones, great care needs to be taken while carrying out plantation drives.”

That, of course, is not focus. The emphasis is more on making a fast buck in the name of environment. “It’s true that the advertisers are mainly interested in installing tree guards so that they could put their advertisements there. Most advertisers are interested in installing their guard at prominent locations,” says an official of the Forest Department. On being asked whether the LMC ever consults the forest department about the pollution resistant plants before going about the business, the official said, “Since there are no clear cut guidelines, no body takes us into confidence before going ahead with the plantation drives.”
The LMC chief, VP Singh, admitted that there was a need to review the entire system of carrying out plantation drives in the city.

“Of course, not all is well. We are thinking of reviewing the entire policy,” Singh said. In 2000, Amit Puri, state BJP leader, had filed a PIL in this regard. The High Court had on the basis the PIL set up a monitoring committee to look into the points raised by Puri. Six years later, little has been done.

For instance the LMC chief who is also a member of the monitoring committee was unaware of the fact.

The PIL pointed out the tree guards were being erected by the various advertising agencies even in those areas where such advertisements are prohibited. He had further submitted that one of the pre-conditions of urban plantation was to plant only those saplings that were pollution-resistant.

“Despite the setting up of a monitoring committee the said pre condition is not being followed. What’s more the plantation work is being carried out only in those areas having commercial value,” says Puri who now is planning to write to the Commissioner, Lucknow division, RK Mittal in this regard. Mittal, who is the chairman of the monitoring committee on being contcated said that some efforts have been made in improving the environment of the city, a point that Puri objects to. Says Neeraj Srivastava, an assistant regional manager in UPSRTC, “When I look around the city, all I see is dying plants and tree guards with advertisers’ name on it.”

Of course there are those like Rakesh K Jaiswal from Eco Friends and Vikranth Nath from Karavan Heritage Conservation Society who feel that plantation needs to be welcomed. Both feel that given the alarmingly low green cover, a green-exercise, intention notwithstanding, is needed. But it’s not the green-aspect that is being opposed. It’s the game behind the green-cause that is making many see red.

First Published: May 20, 2006 00:09 IST