The Forest Department is gearing up to plant four crore trees in a statewide plantation drive on July 1. But it might end up holding little meaning, based on what this paper observed recently at Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP), where the state kicked off its ambitious tree plantation drive last July.
A visit to the park showed that less than a year later, half the trees had withered, and several had died. But whether the plants survived or not seemed to depend not on the weather or soil, but on who had planted them — a common man or VIP.
The trees that perished had been planted by school and college students and nature-loving Mumbaikars. Yet, just next to it, in a plot where Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and a slew of other top politicians had planted trees, all seemed well and the trees were thriving!
Excuses were trotted out that staff was stretched thin and could not look after the saplings, but it is obvious that there is a pattern to this.
It is time we concentrated on keeping trees, not tokenism, alive. If this is the case with other tree plantation drives as well, we may as well scrap the idea altogether and focus our energies on saving the trees already existing in the city. When a tree plantation is done, it is vital that basics are in place, such as staff strength too look after them. It is ridiculous that trees planted by VIPs continue to thrive while those planted by ordinary citizens wither away and die. A tree is a life-giving gift of nature. It is immaterial who planted it or whose name-tag it bears.
This controversy comes at a time when Mumbai is losing many trees because of the ongoing Metro III work. That makes it all the more important for us to preserve the treasures that we have as our investment for the future.
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