BBMP's green programmes mere damp squibs

BBMP forest workers and activists plant saplings on the Outer Ring Road in Marathahalli to compensate for trees chopped down to make way for advertisement hoardings. DH FILE PHOTO

Beyond the euphoric celebrations of World Environment Day lies a stark reality. The civic authorities' commitment to conserving the environment is nothing more than empty rhetoric. 

Consider this. Several environmental programmes announced by the BBMP in its 2017-18 budget are either far from complete, or worse, damp squibs. 

The civic body had vowed to distribute about 10 lakh saplings across the city. But it could not distribute even three lakh saplings. 

The BBMP Green mobile phone app, developed by the Palike's information technology cell to distribute saplings, gave away only 2,68,873 saplings until August 2017 when its services were abruptly stopped. 

The Palike had allocated Rs 6 crore in the previous budget for planting two lakh saplings in an effort to bring greenery back to Bengaluru. But it planted just one lakh saplings in its eight zones. Of them, 25,000 have already been lost to poor maintenance and damage. 

A BBMP official conceded that the execution of environmental programmes has been "very slow", but promised that the targets would be met. With a new state government in place, the BBMP's 2018-19 budget has not been approved yet. So, the Palike is just implementing last year's programmes. 

Cholarajappa, Deputy Conservator of Forests, BBMP, said no bids had been invited for this year's environmental programmes. "We will call the bids once the government approves the budget. We will implement them along with those announced in the 2017-18 budget," he added. 

Vijay Nishanth, an urban conservationist, pointed out another loophole. The BBMP has also failed to maintain the saplings it had planted. He fears most of them will wither away. The civic body is yet to give shape to the concept of tree wardens, who will take care of the saplings, he added. 

At least five incidents of trees being cut to increase the visibility of advertising hoardings have been registered in the past 10 months in the city. 

As recently as on May 10, more than 25 trees were chopped down on the Outer Ring Road (ORR). Worse, the BBMP does not even know about them, according to Nishanth. "The BBMP's forest cell has no clue about the trees being cut in the city. Each time, 25-30 trees or their branches have been cut," he said. 

Cholarajappa said they had taken action and filed police complaints against those cutting the trees. 

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