Lucknow : Led by Chief Minister Mayawati, hundreds of thousands took part in a massive greening exercise across Uttar Pradesh Tuesday planting a whopping 10 million saplings, officials said.
Determined to improve the green cover in the state that stands at a paltry 9.3 percent, far below the national average of 23 percent, the government undertook the unprecedented exercise.
And to ensure that nothing went wrong, the authorities ordered two independent witnesses to certify the sapling count at each place.
Mayawati attended the greening drive along with senior vice president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and some prominent social workers and activists in Lucknow.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi participated in the programme in her parliamentary constituency Rae Bareli.
And all over the state, children and government officials planted scores of saplings in villages and towns.
Roopak Dey, principal chief conservator of forests, told IANS: “This is the first time that such a gigantic exercise is being undertaken in the state.”
Asked about fudging of figures in the past, he said: “This time we have kept checks and double-checks to avert irregularities.
“Besides department officials, we have kept two independent witnesses to certify the count. We are also video-filming the exercise almost everywhere and keeping a record of the longitude and latitude of the site of each plantation. There is no scope for mischief now.”
The largest single plantation site was in Hathras, where as many as 40,000 saplings were planted on an open forestland in the presence of prominent leaders and local officials.
According to principal forest secretary V.N. Garg, who took the initiative to plan the drive, local farmers would look after 50 percent of the plantations.
“The rest would be entrusted to the care of private and government schools in urban, semi-urban and rural areas, besides NGOs and individuals,” Garg said.