Five months after the erstwhile government headed by Devendra Fadnavis announced achieving its goal of planting 33 crore saplings in the state within three months, 38 out of total 59 government agencies that were involved in the drive have not submitted sapling survival reports.
According to the programme, the survival reports of seedlings planted between July 1 and September 30 last year were to be uploaded to the portal launched by the state Forest department to monitor the drive. These 38 agencies had reported to have planted 5.5 crore saplings during the drive but were silent on whether these survived.
In case of 14 other departments, survival reports have come from only three out of the total 36 districts.
Only Social Forestry, Forest department (Territorial), Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra and Forest Wildlife Department have diligently reported survival numbers on the portal. According to the portal, a total of 34.47 crore saplings were planted as part of the Green Maharashtra drive last year, of which 15.68 crore have been reported to have survived. Most of these were those planted by forest agencies.
The non-Forest agencies — mostly state government, central government and local body offices, which had planted a total of 16.97 crore saplings — have submitted survival reports for only 3.41 lakh saplings, leaving the fate of the rest (16.94 core) to imagination.
In 2016, the state government had launched the ‘Green Maharashtra’ drive under the leadership of then forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, with an aim to plant 50 crore trees across the state. The previous government claimed it planted 19 crore saplings between 2016 and 2018 and then additional 33 crore between July 1 and September 30, 2019.
To monitor planning and implementation of the campaign, a special portal was created to upload plantation numbers, photographic and videographic evidence of plantation drive as well as survival reports after conducting inspection in October and May every year.
As The Indian Express earlier reported, the non-forest agencies, which were reluctant to take part in the humongous drive stating they neither had expertise nor financial resources to do so, had claimed to have achieved plantation targets, but in a majority of instances had not uploaded the photographic evidence.
The portal shows that although gram panchayats reportedly planted 8.64 crore saplings during the drive, survival reports have been submitted only for 2,46,226 in Chandrapur district. Gram panchayats from no other district have submitted their reports. Similarly, the state Agriculture department had claimed to have planted 1.9 crore saplings. But positive survival reports have been submitted only by one gram panchayat (Mhatroli) in Alibaug taluka of Raigad District for 340 saplings.
While Vivek Khandekar, chief conservator of forest (Pune), did not comment on the issue, other officials said the forest department had no mandate to force compliance from non-forest agencies. “You would see that most of non-compliance is from non-forest agencies and we can’t do anything about it,” said an official.
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