Kerala would soon up its green quotient if the emerging trend for planting saplings is any indication.
An unprecedented fad for planting saplings was visible in the State since the beginning of the monsoon season. The trend, which peaked on June 5, the World Environment Day, has started waning. Yet, people are walking into the offices of the Social Forestry wing for collecting their saplings.
Intense drought and acute shortage of drinking water the State experienced during the past year and increased atmospheric temperature are believed to have triggered the planting spree.
It’s estimated that over 75 lakh saplings would be planted across the State by June-end, indicating an increasing trend. Last year, 67 lakh saplings were planted in June. The increased demand for saplings has caught even the forest officials by surprise. Most of the Social Forestry offices ran out of stock in the face of the record demand.
B.S. Corrie, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, (Social Forestry), felt that the realisation that climate change had reached the doorsteps kicked off the frenzy. The intense drought the State experienced during the last year might could have also influenced people to plant more trees, he said.
It's the Social Forestry Wing of the Forest Department that mostly supplies saplings for the planting. On an average, the department spends Rs. 6 crore for producing saplings. It has targeted to raise 88.38 lakh seedlings this year against the 87.97 of the previous year.
In Kochi, the demand for saplings has grown four fold till June 5. City dwellers collected as many as 74,226 saplings from the Ernakulam office as against the 29,435 of last year, said Wincent Suting, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Ernakulam Region.
Religious groups, residents associations and social organisations, including clubs, have joined the green drive in the State in a big way.
In Kochi, most people opted for mahogany saplings. The species accounted for nearly half of the saplings distributed followed by teak, Neem tree, gooseberry and guava, said D. Rajendran, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Social Forestry), Ernakulam. The department is left with the saplings kept aside for the school and college students. Considering the demand of the season, more saplings will be prepared for the next season, he said.
The Thrissur-Chalakudi ranges too witnessed huge demand and over 3.5 lakh saplings were distributed from here. Increased awareness on conservation and protection of environment might have set off the fad, said P.N. Premchandar, Assistant conservator (Social Forestry).
The green initiative of social groupsis expected to bring in some monitoring and protection for the saplings. However, the department lacks effective system to follow up the planting spree. Monitoring is partially possible only in case of those distributed through schools and colleges. Even in those cases, only random checking is possible. Assessments revealed that the survival rate of saplings distributed through educational institutions were around 60 per cent in these segments, an official said.