Friday, August 07, 2009

BBMP PLANTS A SCAM

BBMP PLANTS A SCAM
While the Urban Forest department is spending just Rs 38.18 lakh for planting 1.94 lakh saplings, the BBMP has allocated Rs 7.9 crore for 1.90 lakh saplings. Why such disparity?
NIRANJAN KAGGERE


It’s not just that Bangalore’s once bountiful trees are fast disappearing. Replanting efforts are getting torpedoed even before they start. And government agencies are outbidding each other in wasting money.
Wondering how? Well, compare how much the BBMP and the Urban Forest department spent last year on planting saplings across the city to increase green cover: The BBMP has spent at least 20 times more than
the forest department, and
on fewer saplings!
HUGE DISPARITY
Here are the exact figures: BBMP’s south division alone had spent Rs 2.92 crore in 2008-09 to plant a mere 90,500 saplings, whereas the Bangalore Urban forest department spent a mere Rs 42.2 lakh to plant 1.04 lakh saplings.
Even as how the BBMP contrived to spend so much of the tax-payers’ money over so few saplings remains a mystery, comes the current year’s shocker: While BBMP plans to spend Rs 7.9 crore on 1.90 lakh saplings, the forest department’s budget is a mere Rs 38.18 lakh for 1.94 lakh saplings. ROOT MAP
These statistics, that come a fortnight after Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa dropped a bombshell by blaming the timber mafia for the massive treechopping exercise underway in Bangalore, is a pointer to the fact that all is not well in the saplings planting exercise too. Ironically, these statistics were presented by Yeddyurappa himself in the recently concluded legislature session while answering a question raised by Mahalakshmi Layout MLA N L Narendra Babu.
Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Babu said: “Everything looks mysterious. They claim that they have planted several thousands of saplings, but in reality you hardly find any trees around. I had demanded the ward-wise break up of the expenditure in planting saplings, but they have not given it yet. Once we get to know about the ward-wise expenditure, then it would become easy to find out the irregularities.”
ONLY ON PAPER
While politicians have no clue about the programme, environmentalists have alleged that the saplings exist only on paper. Vinay from Hasiru Usiru said, “There are gangs involved not only in tree cutting but also in planting saplings. When we asked for detailed information about one area, the officials explained that they have planted more than 100 saplings. But all along the road, there were only 26 saplings. In many places, they have planted flower species like Hibiscus and Bougainvillea which are just flower bearing creepers and not trees proper.”
‘WE DID OUR JOB’
Meanwhile, BBMP officials maintain that they have discharged their job. “There is a difference in the planting programme that we undertook and the planting programme undertaken by the forest department. It would be easier and more affordable for the forest department to plant lakhs of trees in an open area. But we have taken up avenue plantation which costs more than the forest department as we need to move around and find vacant places to plant saplings,” explained a technical officer from the BBMP South Division.
‘IT’S AN EYEWASH’
However, a retired IFS officer of the forest department contested this. “There is no difference. Both BBMP and Urban Forest department plant saplings in the same kind of ambience. The forest department plants saplings along the roads, akin to BBMP’s method. Then how can they spend so less and these people spend so much?” he asked.
“We used to provide tree guards covered with metallic mesh to safeguard tender saplings. But now they have even replaced that with just a few pieces of bamboo tied in a metallic wire. But if you look around the city, you will not find these guards? Nobody knows what is happening?” he added.
Former mayor and Congress leader M Ramachandrappa claims that it’s all mere statistics and that in reality no work has happened. “Be it Cunningham Road, MG Road, Tumkur Road, Cubbon Road or Bellary Road, there is no sign of saplings being planted. I have seen only around 50 saplings across the city. Where are the two lakh saplings that the government says is there?” he asked.

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