Sapling audit: Why other cities should take a leaf out of Delhi’s green book

Dehradun-based FRI in a third-party audit of plantation drives between 2016-19 says over 50% plants have survived

FRI experts say the final report on Delhi's plantation drive will be out by July-end. Representative Visual

Around 6.7 million new saplings were planted in Delhi during the plantation season from June to September between 2016 and 2019. A third-party audit of the plantation has come out with good news: more than half of the plants have survived.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led government had asked the Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI) to complete an audit of the plantation. The FRI has concluded that the survival rate of the plantation has been between 50 and 75 per cent, which is considered “good”.

A survival rate of 40-50 per cent is considered “average,” 50-70 per cent “good,” 70-80 per cent “very good” and 80-90 per cent “excellent,” according to FRI, quoted by HT.

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FRI experts conducted the plantation audit for the Delhi forest department to oversee the survival rate of new saplings planted in the national capital, the kind of species planted, and the benefits of planting such species.

FRI experts said a draft audit report will be submitted before the Delhi government this week, and the final report will be out by July-end.

The initial report accessed by HT suggested that the Delhi government focus more on the planting of native varieties, instead of exotic species. “The choice of species has been good, but there are some areas in the Capital where exotic species were planted, which require more care and are also not good for the ecology around it,” the paper quoted VK Dhawan, a forestry expert at FRI Dehradun, who is leading the plantation audit.

Also read: How Nilgiris’ tea, exotic plantations are warding off its endemic Shola birds

Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai has directed officials to complete the ongoing third party audit of plantation works and submit the report at the earliest to ensure transparency.

“The Department of Forest and Wildlife has been pursuing this issue with all the greening agencies in the state. A few agencies have conducted third-party audits for the survival of plantations in the earlier years. For instance, the NDMC (2016-17 and 2017-18), the DDA (2018-19), the PWD (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19) and the Department of Forest (2009-10 to 2015-16),” a statement said.

“I have ordered a strict independent third-party audit of the plantation work across Delhi. Various organizations and institutions are working on it,” a statement quoted the Minister as saying.

Of the 18 greening agencies involved in yearly plantation drives, the forest department and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) plant the maximum number of saplings and shrubs.

The government has set a target of planting 33 lakh saplings this financial year. It expects to increase the city’s green cover to about 350 sq km this year from 325 sq km in 2019.

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