THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The distribution of tree saplings has become almost a sacred public ritual that it has emerged as a metaphor for a person’s, especially a politician’s, commitment to the green cause.
The grand claim is that these saplings will improve biodiversity and reduce global warming. But there is no official mechanism to check whether these saplings are still standing, or have wilted under the heat or have been swept away by the rain and the wind.
The Forest Department, therefore, has begun a statistical monitoring and evaluation to assess the ‘survival rate’ of saplings planted under various social forestry projects like ‘Haritha Keralam, and ‘Ente Maram’ during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal.
“The assessment has been taken up because the protection of these trees is not directly under the control of the Department but under the institutions like local bodies and educational institutions that had taken up the planting,” a top Forest Department official said.
Under various social forestry and afforestation schemes, saplings are being distributed to local bodies, educational institutions, youth organisations, religious bodies, residents’ associations and even political parties.
It is said that over a crore sapling have been distributed across the state under various programmes. The ‘Haritha Keralam’ project alone has set an ambitious target of distributing three crore saplings in 2018.
“However, the care and protection of these saplings are in the hands of the organisations or departments or individuals in whose premises these saplings are planted. The Forest Department cannot tend to these saplings once they have been handed over,” forest minister K Raju said. “We, however, do some random sampling. But that is not clearly enough,” he added.
Still, the minister said that the planting of trees in non-forest areas had proven beneficial to the state. “The latest Forest Survey has found that Kerala has a forest cover of 28.49 percent in non-forest areas,” Mr Raju said. He also stated that certain studies carried out locally had found that such sapling have high survival rate.
"A study conducted by Kerala Forest Research Institute had reported that nearly 75 percent of wood required for domestic purposes in the state were secured from non-forest areas," the minister said....