The Chennai Corporation and a few other government agencies engaged in the task of making the city green are grappling with the problem of theft of saplings from road medians.
Officials in the civic body said around 5-7 per cent of the saplings planted by the Corporation on the medians are stolen. The plants that are often reported missing from the location include Ixora, phycus and clerodenderon. Sometimes, phycus plants, which cost around Rs.1,000 each, are taken away.
Ixora plants (idly flowers or pichi poo) cost only around Rs.20 a sapling. However, as they are colourful and attractive people steal the sapling from the medians. In parks too, plants go missing. This happens when maintenance work goes on, the officials added.
Following repeated thefts of flowering and ornamental plants some departments such as the Bridges department of the Corporation have stopped planting such varieties. “We go in for a feature and plant grass,” an official said.
The State Highways Department, which maintains Anna Salai, 100 Feet Road and Poonamallee High Road, and Tamil Nadu Road Development Company (TNRDC) that maintains the East Coast Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai too face this problem.
The TNRDC, which launched a greening programme on the ECR sometime ago and planted 3,800 saplings, lost about 400 of them, including Copper pods, begonia, and Samanea Saman ( Thoongumoonji maram). “On Rajiv Gandhi Salai we lose about 5-6 plants every month. People believe that these plants will grow at home. But they will not as the root systems of the plants get damaged. Sometimes the plants are pulled out just for fun by the passers-by,” said an official of the firm. Plants, including Alamanda, Decoma and Ixora, are removed from the medians, he said.
Highways Department sources said many plants go missing when party flags and small cut-outs are placed on the medians.
“The men who install them just pull out the plants and dig in the cut-outs or flag poles. Sometimes, plants are damaged as they do not see where the stake is pushed into the soil.”