Even as the state environment department prepared to launch a mega plantation drive on the World Environment Day on Friday, with chief minister Mamata Banerjee leading the initiative, naturalists and tree experts urged the government to learn from past mistakes and plant saplings or semi-grown trees only after deliberating on the species that would be suitable or the urban environment.
The urban recreational forestry wing of the forest department, which, along with Kolkata Municipal Corporation, looks after the planting of trees in the city, has lined up a plan to procure 1 lakh trees, aged 3-10 years, to undertake a drive to compensate the loss of over 15,000 trees that were uprooted or damaged beyond repair when Cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc on the city on May 20. While the huge loss saddened environmentalists, they also viewed it as an opportunity to replace the damaged trees with new varieties that were suitable for the urban environment and were less likely to perish in storms and cyclones in future. “Many trees that got uprooted on the evening of the cyclone would have anyway perished in 15 or 20 more Nor’westers. Also, not all trees can root firmly in the soft aluvial soil in Kolkata that has a high sand content. Instead of rushing in to fill the void with a big plantation drive, it is time to chalk out a well-planned strategy on areas, where trees will be planted and what kind of species will be planted there,” said naturalist Arjan Basu Roy. The day after the cyclone, environmentalist Bonani Kakkar had flagged the very concern and called for a tree policy before undertaking any plantation drive. “The CM can plant a tree as a symbolic gesture on World Environment Day. But let us wait a while. The soil will get some time to heal and KMC parks and squares department officials can discuss with experts and take a more scientific approach to selection of trees,” she suggested.
Kakkar also stressed on the need for a horticulturist to be present when the saplings or trees are planted and not leave it to labourers to dig a hole in the pavement and plant the first sapling they get at hand. “The care for trees has to begin right from their selection. Only then will it be a meaningful exercise,” she said.
Green activist Subhas Datta, too, felt plantation for the sake of it should be avoided. “Trees or saplings should be planted to derive maximum environmental benefits. Selection of species and spot for the plantation is important, so is the training for parks and squares department staff to scientifically prune trees so they don’t become lopsided,” said Datta.
Source: Times of India