Janet’s trust identifies vacant spaces and seeks permission from authorities and site owners to have saplings planted on their land for free. Residents can sponsor saplings to be planted at specified spots, to mark special occasions…
Tabloids are not just about scandals, glambiz and other trivia. Bangalore Mirror and a local private trust have clubbed up to promote tree planting in their city. Mrs. Janet Yegneswaran, who founded the Tree For Free Trust a couple of years back in the memory of her husband, has been engaged in encouraging Bangalore residents and neighbourhood communities to chip in their bit in her endeavour to make a difference to the city’s green cover.
Tree lovers can have saplings planted in their neighbourhood on payment of Rs.100. Janet’s trust identifies vacant spaces and seeks permission from authorities and site owners to have saplings planted on their land for free. Residents can sponsor saplings to be planted at specified spots, to mark special occasions such as birthdays, death anniversaries of dear ones, wedding anniversaries, graduation, and what have you. A California-based NRI had 21 saplings planted the day she left India, at the end of her vacation in Bangalore, as her farewell gesture to the city.
Imagine the number of city students going abroad for higher studies; also young IT professionals leaving on their first posting abroad. If each of them were to plant a sapling to mark his or her trip, we would have green cover in many neighbourhoods and also on the stretch between the city to Devanahalli in three to five years. Isn’t this something that ought to interest the city authorities and BIAL? I would suggest they launch an ad campaign – ‘ A Green Way to Leave the City; Leave Behind a Tree’.
Anyway, the day Bangalore Mirror carried the story of the NRI’s farewell gesture Janet’s phone didn’t stop ringing; people were calling to have saplings sponsored in their names. Janet, who has been running the trust since November 2005, hasn’t heard from so many sponsors on any single day in these two years. She got a call from a public school boy, studying in Class 7, wanting to plant saplings near his house at Banashankari.
A resident of K.R. Puram wanted saplings for his site at Baglur layout. A residents’ association, representing 50 houses in Shakthinagar (near Banaswadi), wanted to have two saplings planted in front of every house. The NRI whose farewell gesture triggered this spurt in sponsors had 21 saplings planted at Cartman Eco Park in Koramangala. It is said that the foreign nationals working for Earth.org have planted 237 saplings, one each for every country on earth.
SiliconIndia, a network of professionals, has set up GreenBangalore, an e-group in support of Janet’s tree-planting initiative. In response to my mail, she said they have “not had any significant help from the corporates nor from the media” till now, and that she could do with all the contacts she could get to carry forward the work of the Trees for Free trust.
Meanwhile, in Mysore a grandiose plan launched to restore the city’s green cover at an estimated cost of Rs.128.04 lakhs has run into trouble. Why? Because of a fund flow issue involving the Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) and the Forest Department. Unlike Janet’s trust, government departments tend to get bogged down with cost estimates and funding. Costing is important, but fund flow (between departments, which is usually a matter of book adjustment) can’t be the be all and end all of a community welfare scheme.
According to the media, trouble with the Green Mysore Project started right in the first year (2005), when the Forest Department planted only 37,000 saplings instead of the targeted one lakh plants. There is no knowing as to how many of them survive today, as the department has stopped maintenance of the planted saplings. What is worse, the departmental nurseries have no saplings to be planted in 2008.
The Forest Department claims MUDA owes them Rs.32.76 lakhs till date, of which Rs.19.75 lakhs is required for nurturing saplings for planting in 2008. And repeated reminders to MUDA have gone unanswered. Going by the media report, MUDA has much to answer for if the Green Mysore project is given up.
But the Forest Department cannot cover itself with glory either. As partners in the project, shouldn’t the department explore other ways to keep the tree planting going? The Green Mysore story is typical of most government projects: fund flow falls short of budgetary commitment; a flurry of letters follows; file-notes, meetings, and recorded minutes. And the project gets shelved for want of funds!
The point is that neither the Forest Department nor MUDA appears have given the Green Mysore project the priority it deserves. What’s more, they don’t appear accountable to the public, insofar as neither MUDA nor the Forest Department has seen it necessary to sustain public awareness in the greening project, with periodical progress reports on the project. As partners in its implementation, the two agencies could release through the media a quarterly progress review giving details of not just the money spent, but also the number saplings planted during the previous quarter, their cumulative total, plants survival rate, and the localities covered till date.
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