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Greenbelt programme: Forest Dept.'s claims contested

By P. Oppili

CHENNAI, NOV. 25. Even as the Forest Department claims to have achieved 50 per cent of its target in implementing `Greenbelt pollution Abatement' programme in the city and suburbs, various organisations involved in the programme have raised ``serious doubts'' about the department's achievement.

Under the programme, which was launched on June 3 to coincide with the Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi's birthday, 1.30 lakh saplings had to be planted in the city and its suburbs. But, the programme funded by the Central Pollution Control Board faced problem right from the beginning.

To start with, the saplings were not available in required number readily with the department, say sources. The department was forced to purchase 12,000 tall saplings from other divisions and from Tamil Nadu Forest Plantation Corporation (TAFCORN) to make up for the shortfall. Even this was not sufficient, they said.

The duration for achieving the target was not also sufficient, said another officer. For example, the City Beautification Programme, launched a few years ago, was shelved after two years when the Chennai Corporation failed to pay the funds allotted for the programme.

Originally it was planned to complete the planting programme by November end. But it could not be continued as per schedule due to the delayed setting in of monsoon, said officials.

Areas such as Kodambakkam, Mambalam, Nungambakkam, Purasawalkam and several places in north Chennai have not been covered by the department, allege NGOs. Though the pits were dug more than a month ago, the Range Officers concerned had not planted the saplings, they said. ``If the planting programme continued at this phase, it could not be achieved before next monsoon'', felt the NGOs.

The department should explain to the other involved organisations the places in the city and its suburbs where the planting work was completed. With this information, the remaining areas could be identified for taking up the planting work, says Mr. R. Govindaraj, Exnora joint general secretary.

Similarly, the department should identify the places where pollution level is high and take up planting work.

With ample funds and suitable weather condition prevailing in the city, the department should conduct the meeting with participating organisations and motivate its staff to achieve the target on time.

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