Environment
Is planting saplings enough? What about maintenance? And how many trees survive in such drives?
Image for representation

In an attempt to expand Bengaluru's rapidly decreasing green cover,  the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) is planning to plant 10 lakh saplings this monsoon season.

And, the civic body is banking on public participation in order to reach its goal. To facilitate public participation the BBMP is offering citizens free saplings from 16 species of trees, like neem, champaka and gooseberry, through a new mobile app called the 'BBMP Green'.

After installing the app, users have to enter their ward and location. They will then receive an SMS that they have to show while collecting the saplings from the designated pick up point.

However, the concern is--how many of the saplings planted in such drives survive to become full-grown trees?

Nearly 50% of saplings planted by the BBMP die due to conditions such as drought, lack of rain and poor maintenance, an official in the BBMP's Forest Cell told The Hindu. In comparison, the official said, saplings planted by the state Forest Department have an almost 95% survival rate.

K Ratna Prabha, Assistant Conservator of Forests and Bengaluru (South) Tree Officer, told The News Minute that these saplings have a 60-70% survival rate.

"We may lose some of the trees, which is normal. But we replace the ones which did not survive with more trees in the next planting session," she said.

When asked about lack of proper maintenance of the saplings, the officer blamed it on a shortage of funds.

"BBMP has not released any funds for planting and maintaining these trees. Earlier contractors, who were given tenders, used to plant saplings and look after its growth. This is because it was required for the trees to grow to a certain limit before the contractors would be paid. But in the last four years, BBMP has not cleared their bills. So even they are less interested now," she said.

In 2014, a group of citizens took it upon themselves to count the number of trees planted by the BBMP after the latter claimed that 63.5% of its saplings had survived. Volunteers, who went around the city, manually counted trees and found that the number was as low as 30%.

Urban conservationist, Vijay Nishanth says that BBMP's app could help increase the survival rate of the saplings.

"The saplings aren't watered properly because agencies are not paid on time. But because of the app, now citizens can be involved and they will have a sense of ownership. This will also reduce the burden on the BBMP," he says.

Vijay states that the body however should carry out a scientific tree census, similar to a project he is currently working on in Jayanagar.

"They should document the size and species of the trees in the census. This will help them in proper maintenance of the plants. For instance, if a 40-year-old tree fell down in an area, the authorities will then know which species of plants they can replace it with. Currently, all such spots are cemented once a tree dies or is uprooted," he says.

"The government also needs to provide information about the status of similar such planting sessions started in previous years, and whether it plans to expand these drives to other districts as well", he adds.