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UP: Green movement grapples with question of sapling survival

The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh faces the challenge of protecting over nine crore saplings planted on August 15 even as questions remain about the ‘record plantation drives’ carried out in the past.

lucknow Updated: Aug 20, 2018 13:23 IST
Umesh Raghuvanshi
Umesh Raghuvanshi
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Green movement,UP forest department,Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority
An overview of green cover on the Yamuna bank near the Agra Fort.(Raju Tomar/HT Photo)

The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh faces the challenge of protecting over nine crore saplings planted on August 15 even as questions remain about the ‘record plantation drives’ carried out in the past.

Although the state government has claimed an average success rate of 95.02%, the alleged irregularities in past plantation drives, including the ones carried out during the tenures of the Samajwadi Party government and the BSP government, indicate serious lapses in the whole exercise.

“Yes, there are large-scale irregularities in the plantation drives. I see a scam of Rs 500 to Rs 800 crore in the afforestation drives carried out in the state in the past 10 years,” said Sanjay Dixit, whose reports as a member of the MNREGA central council (during UPA regime) had led to a CBI probe in implementation of the rural job guarantee scheme in many districts of the state.

Dixit’s claims may not be unfounded as plants, along with tree guards, have been found missing on many sites where plantation was carried out over the years.

“I have visited 11 spots of plantation carried out in Kanpur Nagar between 2009 and 2012. I found only 10% plants on the spot vis-à-vis the numbers claimed by the state forest department in Kanpur Nagar alone. I have requested the SSP Kanpur Nagar to register a case and take appropriate action. I have official data of the plantation carried out in 20 districts. I am carrying out physical verification and will file a public interest litigation (PIL) if the state government fails to act on my reports,” said Dixit, who has sent two letters to chief minister Yogi Adityanath, demanding a probe into plantation drives carried out in the past.

Senior officers of the state forest department, however, contest claims about any major lapses in the plantation drives.

“Gone are the days when the sapling plantation drives were carried out on paper. We now appoint third party monitors to keep a watch on the plantation sites. We have GPS coordinates of the sites and district officers are responsible for maintenance of saplings planted at various sites. A survey is carried out on completion of every three years of plantation. Action is taken wherever irregularities are reported,” said a senior officer.

The officer said the state government’s success rate claim is supported by the statistics of the rising green cover. “In the past three years, the state’s green cover has gone up by 676 square km. It went up from 21,505 square km to 22,121 square km. This included increase of 278 square km in forest areas and 398 square km in tree cover. UP has a green cover of 9.18% against 6.09% recorded a few years ago,” he said.

Another officer said the chief minister had taken note of reports of irregularities in sapling plantation drives in the past. To check this, chief minister asked the department to involve people in the sapling plantation drives.

“We carried out the sapling plantation drive this year with involvement of people. The state government did not provide additional funds for the drive though a high target of planting 9 crore saplings was set,” said the officer.

Amid claims and counter-claims, the authorities point out that biotic pressure was one of the main reasons for low survival of plants on most of the sites.

“The UP forest department also needs manpower for regular monitoring of such drives. There are a large number of vacancies and the average age of the field staff is 55 years,” said an officer associated with monitoring the exercise.

“We have a system in place for afforestation programmes carried out under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority,” said the officer.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 13:23 IST