In Delhi, government spends Rs.950 on every plant!

By Gaurav Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : Believe it or not, Rs.950 is what the Delhi government spends on every plant to make the national capital look green, according to an Right To Information (RTI) reply.

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According to government records, a total of Rs.1,46,42,800 was spent on planting and maintaining 15,400 saplings at the Ridge area in Aya Nagar in the city’s South Forest Division.

The cost on each sapling amounts to Rs.950 for over three years (2009-12), which includes watering, hoeing and feeding manure.

Asked if this amount was justified, an official in the forest department told IANS: “The cost of plantation differs from place to place as it depends on the soil. If it is wasteland, then it is difficult for plants to grow.”

The official, who did not want to be named, explained that digging pits, manual labour and other factors also formed part of the Rs.950.

But an official working in one of the government’s nurseries said the cost is “too much”.

“If you plant saplings in bulk, the cost comes down. For 15,000 saplings, the cost is too much,” the official added.

Greens also found the figure baffling.

“The figure does seem baffling to me,” environmentalist Anil Agarwal told IANS. Chetan Agarwal, an independent forest researcher, also said the cost was “too high”.

“It is outrageous because the more saplings you grow, the amount (falls),” Agarwal said.

Official statistics show that the money spent on each sapling is high in other areas too.

A total of Rs.48,62,656 was spent on 7,200 saplings in Tughalkabad area in south Delhi in 2009-10.

Here, the average cost on one plant works out to Rs.675. Surprisingly, the government seems to have no record on what was spent from 2001 to 2006 on its annual plantation drive in two of its three forest divisions.

Delhi has three forest divisions – south, north and west. Each division has three districts. Of the three divisions, the South division accounts for the largest green cover in the capital.

Replying to the RTI application, which sought the expenses on plantation from 2001 to May 2012, offices of south and west forest divisions provided figures only from 2007-8.

The south division has no record of expense between 2001 to 2006.

When IANS contacted another official in the forest department, he said: “There are multiple agencies involved in plantation. That’s why we could not collate all the information. MCD, DDA and other civic agencies are also involved in it.”

According to forest officials, they plant trees like neem, peepal (banyan) and other species, which increases the forest area.

“The average cost of one sapling should be around Rs.50-60 but there are other costs involved too like manual labour and others,” another official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

Forest department officials said the annual plantation drive was started in 1997-98 to increase the green cover of the capital, which stood at just three percent then.

According to the Forest Survey of India report 2009, the total forest and tree cover of Delhi is 299.58 km, which accounts for 20.20 percent of its entire geographical area.