Shorn of trees, Punjab takes the app route to greenery
The ‘i-Hariyali’ app provides a virtual marketplace of over 200 varieties of trees, ornamental plants and shrubs available with nurseries of the Punjab forest department mostly free of cost or for a token sum of Rs 10.Updated:
Punjab, which has the second lowest forest cover in the country, is now banking on an application and its employees to clean its air and turn the state green.
It was on June 5, World Environment Day, that chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh launched the application called ‘i-Hariyali’ to promote the ‘Ghar, Ghar Hariyali’ campaign.
Chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar followed it up with another order on June 16, asking the 2.5 lakh-odd Punjab government employees to plant a sapling and upload its photo.
The ‘i-Hariyali’ app provides a virtual marketplace of over 200 varieties of trees, ornamental plants and shrubs available with the 250 nurseries of the Punjab forest department mostly free of cost or for a token sum of Rs 10. Over 60,000 people have already downloaded the application, which was made available on the app store on June 18. DV Ratna Kumar, chief conservator of forests, says they have received orders for 80,000 saplings of which 40,000 have already been delivered.
Officials claim they have already planted 5 lakh saplings. The 16 district forest officers in Punjab have identified places for plantation in 10,000 villages, says Kumar. Pointing out that there is tremendous potential for growing more trees, Kumar says, “There are 35,000 link roads with the PWD and the Mandi Board. Then there are 10 lakh tube wells, which could also do with plantation around them.”
Suresh Kumar’s circular asking every state government employee to plant a sapling has also galvanised the district administrations. Tajender Singh, DFO, Faridkot, who has delivered over 7,000 plants free of cost in the district, says jamun, neem and ornamental plants are flying off the shelf.
“While we are encouraging villagers to plant trees, people living in apartments can grow ornamental plants,” says Ratna Kumar. A user can book a plant/plants from a nearby government nursery and press select following which the forest guard of the nursery concerned gets an alert on his mobile. The user will then get the contact number of the nursery guard or in charge whom he can call and arrange to collect the sapling.
The application offers a wide variety of saplings. Ratna Kumar says their nurseries in the Dasuya district alone have 63 varieties of medicinal plants, which include five species of holy basil (tulsi) besides ‘ashwagandha’ and ‘brahmi’. The state nurseries also have 120 varieties of fruit trees and ornamental plants.
SUPPLY AN ISSUE
A forest guard says the demand for sandalwood trees is outstripping its supply. The supply is an issue. The forest department’s target is to plant 40 lakh saplings in a year though it has a stock of only 20 lakh saplings. “The Punjab government order caught us unawares. It takes anywhere from three months to six months to grow a healthy sapling,” he said.
Monitoring is also an issue. Tajender Singh says they are making people fill up a prforma so that they can pay field visits after a few months.
ALL TALK NO ACTION
Not everyone is impressed. Pointing out how at 3.52%, Punjab has the lowest forest cover in the country , Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, a Sangrur-based environmentalist, blames it on the faulty policies of both the state government and the forest department. “Unless they protect the already planted trees, this drive is meaningless.”
“Even though the National Green Tribunal has imposed a blanket ban on tree felling in the state, I see trolleys full of felled trees every few days,” added Aggarwal.
Another officer wondered why the government isn’t implementing the Gram Panchayat Tree Plantation Policy notified during the Akali-BJP government in 2011 according to which one-third of the panchayati land had to be handed over to the forest department for tree plantation. “Why do we need new policies, why don’t we implement the existing ones.”