Public urged to plant saplings and maintain them
To offset the eroding green cover, the Forest Department and a few NGOs are constantly finding ways to plant more trees in the Temple City.
But statistics indicate that the green cover is inadequate, and that the planting of saplings needs to be stepped up.
Forest data establish that only 20 per cent of Madurai district is under a green canopy. The ideal forest cover requirement for any geographical area is 33 per cent, says District Forest Officer A.S. Marimuthu.
The Forest Department claims it planted nearly two lakh saplings in 2012.
The rock afforestation project and the massive tree planting drive extended the green cover, but a lack of proper maintenance resulted in loss of trees and the extent of green cover continues to be a mirage, say forest officials.
According to the Forest Department records, rock afforestation was carried out on 10 hectares of reserve forest near Kodimangalam.
Aavi, neem and peepal saplings were planted on 20 hectares near Usilampatti and Sholavandan.
“We maintain the saplings in the reserve forests. But the saplings planted in educational institutions have to be overseen by the respective managements.
The survival rate of the saplings in reserve forests is 80 per cent, whereas it is less than 70 per cent in educational institutions and other public places”, Mr Marimuthu told The Hindu.
In February 2013, the Forest Department planted 6,500 saplings in public places, schools, colleges and residential areas to mark Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s 65 birthday. “We do have internal and external monitoring teams that visit the places where the saplings are planted. The teams supervise the maintenance of the saplings once in three months for three years. However, a few are felled for developmental projects and some die due to lack of adequate rains, and because of drought.
In schools and colleges, trees wither during the summer vacation because there are no staff to take care of them”, Mr Marimuthu says.
M. Sheik Dawood, president, Walkers’ Club, says that the club’s bore water is insufficient to maintain the trees.
“The Forest Department planted around 150 saplings on the club’s premises in February. We undertook the maintenance. But the water available with us was inadequate. Therefore, we purchased two tankers of water every week to meet the needs of our saplings here”, he says.
“We ensure that all trees are in good condition. If there is any obstruction to the growth of the sapling, we replace it with a fresh one immediately,” he adds.
Despite the claims of the Forest Department that the survival rate of trees in educational institutions is low, a number of educational institutions in the city are interested in enhancing the green cover on their campuses.
“Last year we planted only 20 saplings. This year, we will plant at least 100 with the help of the Forest Department”, says C. Muthiah, principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Narimedu.
Tamil Nadu Polytechnic maintains the 50 saplings planted by Madurai Green, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), last year.
“We already have several trees on our campus. These trees add to the green cover of our campus and we will be planting more herbal trees this year,” said R. Anbukarasi, principal.
Supplementing the initiatives of the Forest Department, a few NGOs are also working to improve the forest cover. Madurai Green planted 36,800 saplings in the city last year.
“This year our target is 40,000. We have the support of nearly 160 residents’ welfare associations to support our mission. After planting saplings, we visit the places every month and replace the saplings if they do not survive”, says N. Chidambaram, project coordinator of Madurai Green.
“We also provide training for youth to set up nurseries for their living. We organise ‘green walks’ every month to create awareness of the significance of trees,” he adds.
Mr Marimuthu says that the survival rate of saplings planted in farmlands and maintained by the farmers is 90 per cent.
The Tamil Nadu bio-diversity conservation project launched in 2011 involves farmers in conservation. Around 62000 saplings were planted in 10 villages in Usilampatti through the project last year.
“We are trying to raise awareness among farmers of the benefits of conserving trees. We have planted species such as teak, kumil, sandalwood and casuarina trees in their farmlands and, in the long run, they will be able to enjoy the benefits,” say the forest officials.