Gaya and Jehanabad would have more green cover if the forests and environment department has its way.
The department has come up with a plan to plant more than 23 lakh saplings of different species this year at various places in the two districts.
On Tuesday, the department organised an awareness campaign at Bumer village in the Naxalite-affected Barachatti block of Gaya district as part of the drive. Forest officials interacted with the villagers and asked them to protect the saplings that were being planted.
“The department wants to create awareness among villagers so that they fell trees that have either dried up or decayed. Besides, we would encourage the construction of check dams in villages that would ensure rainwater harvesting,” divisional forest officer (DFO) of Gaya Alok Kumar told The Telegraph.
Environmentalists, however, did not sound much optimistic about the afforestation drive. Some of them said similar drives in the past have been futile.
A teacher of the chemistry department of Magadh University and founder of Brahmayoni Paryavaran Club, Ranjit Kumar Verma, said: “The forests department has failed to protect the saplings it had planted earlier. Seeds were airdropped in the hilly areas of Atri block. Many seeds were planted on Gaya-Bodhgaya riverside road and Gewal-Bigha road in Gaya. Despite several precautions, not a single plant has survived.”
Social activist Suresh Narayan also did not sound too hopeful about the success of the drive.
“The survival rate of the planted saplings is very low. A practice was started that anyone coming to Gaya to perform pinddaan for the salvation of the souls of their ancestors had an option to plant saplings to keep their memories alive. A place on the foothills of Brahmayoni Hill was identified for the purpose. However, nothing was done to promote the practice and the idea flopped,” Narayan said.
The DFO, too, admitted that such schemes had flopped in the past. “The idea of airdropping seeds flopped. This time, the forests department has planned to go for manual plantation,” Kumar said.
He appeared hopeful about the latest drive. “The saplings in Gaya town and on Gaya-Bodhgaya riverside road were planted in September last year because of which they could not survive. This year, the saplings will be planted in June to ensure that they get adequate water.”