Despite significant financial investments over the years to stem air pollution, Ahmedabad has earned the dubious distinction of being ranked first among the most polluted cities in the country, according to the Central Forest Department. With the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) failing to replenish the city with an adequate green cover, people are facing severe health hazards arising out of PM2 and harmful emissions.
The AMC’s garden department oversees 80 plots spanning approximately 7.59 lakh square metres. Plans were afoot to plant 7.01 lakh saplings across these plots. However, the progress has hit a roadblock, with the planting of around 5 lakh trees across 50 plots coming to a standstill. Why did the corporation’s tea plantation initiatives stagnate?
Unlawful Police Station, Cricket Academy On Garden Plot
During the verification of the site designated for the corporation’s garden department, an illegal police post was discovered in a reserved plot adjacent to the Smriti Mandir compound in Vatva area. Additionally, a cricket academy had encroached upon another reserve plot in Vatva.
A plot of 1,154 square metres was allocated for plantation. However, owing to the presence of a police post, tree planting could only be executed in the available vacant space. Another reserve plot measuring 1,849 square metres, located behind Srinath Residency, has been repurposed by a private cricket academy for cricket-related activities, thwarting the plan to plant 500 trees in this area.
Mission Million Tree Campaign
In a bid to enhance the city’s green coverage, the government has initiated the Mission Million Tree Campaign. With the city’s current green cover at just 12 per cent, the target is to elevate it to 15 per cent by 2025.
Stalling of Tree Plantation in Over 50 Plots
The corporation launched a tree plantation programme on June 5, 2022, with an ambitious goal of planting 25 lakh trees during the monsoon season. The Garden Department took charge of organising tree plantation on open plots and garden-designated areas across the city. These 80 plots were acquired by the Estate Department from different regions. The initial plan was to plant 7.01 lakh trees in these plots. However, upon inspection, it became apparent that tree planting had been halted in over 50 plots due to various reasons.
Obstacles Leading to Disruption
Approximately 1.40 lakh trees have been successfully planted across 18 plots, and plantation has commenced on an additional 11 plots. Unfortunately, in more than 50 plots, the process has been suspended on account of water inundation during monsoon, accumulation of garbage and debris, absence of protective fencing or compound walls, pressure issues, and difficulties in acquiring possession rights. Consequently, AMC has ceased the planting of over 5 lakh trees due to these challenges.
Disturbing Burn Rate of Planted Trees
Over the past four years, the municipal corporation has planted 55.38 lakh saplings, investing over Rs 25 crore. However, a report released by the garden department in May 2023 paints a grim picture. Out of the total trees planted, only 60 per cent have managed to survive, while 40 per cent have fallen victim to fires. The city has witnessed a commendable effort to establish dense tree plantations spanning 227 square metres to 2,79,761 square metres in 104 designated plots over the past five years.
Alarming Rate of Tree Depletion
Between 2017 and 2022, 3,298 trees were axed within the city, as per the records of AMC. Several individuals and organisations were granted permissions to chop trees during this period. Notably, the corporation itself took down 8,328 trees as part of various projects. This cumulative action led to the official removal of 11,626 trees. Additionally, instances of illicit tree felling have marred the city’s landscape over the last five years, resulting in the unauthorised cutting of a total of 400 trees.