To improve the green cover is not an easy task, according to forest officials and environmentalists.

According to a forest official, the metal guards provided to protect the saplings help only in a few cases. Trees are the first victims of developmental projects.

“We celebrate tree planting day, but we do not take the trouble to maintain trees,” says environmentalist Pamayan.

“Saplings continue to be planted to mark the birthday celebrations of political leaders. But there is no follow-up to ensure the survival of trees in public places. Clubs and local groups should be entrusted with the task of maintaining trees,” he told The Hindu .

He suggested that the layout for development projects be designed in such a way as not to affect existing trees.

The residents’ welfare association at Gomathipuram, with the help of organisations such as Madurai Green, has been planting saplings. “We plant saplings only in houses where residents show interest in maintaining them. There have been cases where the residents do not want saplings planted in front of their houses because it would spoil their appearance,” said Raghavan, former president of the residents’ welfare association at Gomathipuram.

“We are willing to take up maintenance of trees in public places. But we cannot do that without the support of the public,” says L. Shanmugam, secretary of Lions Club, Madurai North.

The association has planted hundreds of trees in public places and has left their maintenance to the youth organisations, he says. “If the people support us, we are open to maintaining trees,” he concludes.