Understaffed, fund-starved, neglected: BBMP Forest Wing limps on!

The real reason behind BBMP not being able to maintain trees planted in Namma Bengaluru is this. As the Amicus Curiae in the Tree Felling case told the High Court of Karnataka (HC) on June 23rd, 2014, that less than 50% of the budget allocated for Forest Wing for various activities is released by Bruhat Bengauru Mahanagara Palike. This was just one of the many issues pointed out to the court on BBMP Forest Wing’s ineffectiveness.

In a hearing held on the suo motu PIL (WP No. 7288/2011) filed by former Justice D V Justice Shylendra Kumar against mass tree felling for road widening in Jayamahal Palace road in 2011, Amicus Curiae Vaishali Hegde submitted to the court that in one of their Co-ordination Committee meeting, it came to her notice that BBMP Forest Wing was rendered ineffective due to lack of planning, lack of staff, lack of employee benefits and partial allocation of funds for carrying out its activities.

Approvals given when there are no rains

She presented to the court that one of the reasons for the low of survival rate of seedlings is the delay in approval given to plant them. “Plantation should start at the onset of the monsoon, mid-June and conclude by July, which is the key factor of survival and health of the planted tree,” she said.

However, from 2010-11 to 2013-14, every year BBMP has delayed approvals for the plantation of saplings, Vaishali reported. BBMP Forest wing usually receives approvals only by winter – in  October, November or December. After this, at least 1.5 months’ time is required to follow up and clear all the formalities before planting the saplings.

Vaishali suggested that the approvals be given by mid-April to ensure successful plantation of seedlings.

Lack of funds and employee benefits

In her submission, Vaishali stated that less than 50% of the amount allocated for the BBMP Forest Wing for carrying out its activities like planting and maintaining has been released, while this year, BBMP’s budget has not even mentioned about it. She informed the court that this year the seedlings that are planned to be planted were actually meant to be planted in 2013-14.

Year

Allocated (Rs. in Crores)

Received (Rs. in Crores)

2010-11

39.23

9.83

2011-12

38.23

18.04

2012-13

32.96

6.42

2013-14

29.70

3.91

2014-15

Not allocated yet

 

She added that Forest Wing is highly understaffed. Only 18 officers are employed to support the entire Bangalore city. These officials do not even get a vehicle or travelling allowance to inspect the wards they supervise. She reported to HC that repeated request for Travelling Allowance has been turned down by BBMP. She added that the employees have also been deprived of Leave Salary.

The bench compromising of Justice DH Waghela and Justice H G Ramesh asked BBMP advocate Subramanya R to look through the Amicus Curiae’s report and suggest solutions by the next hearing, scheduled on June 27th 2014.

BBMP charts action plan

Following the High Court’s order on June 2nd 2014, to draft an action plan for planting and protecting seedlings, the Coordination Committee headed by Chief Conservator of Forests and the Deputy Conservator of Forest along with Amicus Curiae and representatives of NGOs conducted a meeting and following action was planned:

  • 1.60 Lakh seedlings will be planted in the current year from the BBMP‘s funds.

  • BBMP will maintain 1.77 Lakh seedlings that were planted in 2012-13. The term for the tenders that were already allotted for maintenance in this year has been extended till fresh tenders are called.

  • For the current year (2014-15), work order for the planting and maintaining activities is already passed.

  • A plan for planting 2 lakh seedlings every year by BBMP has been forwarded to BBMP Commissioner.

  • BBMP will provide free seedlings to all those who are interested to plant them on public or private land. Two lakh seedlings are kept ready, for the same purpose.

  • To facilitate transparency, Karnataka Evaluation Authority constituted by Government of Karnataka will henceforth evaluate the trees planted by BBMP and survived. The data on the number of seedlings planted will be uploaded on the website for public scrutiny.

  • However, the Committee made it clear to the court that in an urban set up the seedlings are prone to die for various reasons. The mortality of the seedlings planted every year is at least 10% for the first three years where the maintenance is in force.

The PIL WP NO. 7288/2011 which was clubbed with PIL WP no. 7107/2008 filed by Environment Support Group (ESG) was de-linked in the last hearing on June 2nd 2014.

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About Nikita Malusare 109 Articles
Nikita Malusare is a Staff Journalist at Citizen Matters.

1 Comment

  1. Priorities for the BBMP are misplaced. Money is wasted (eg. useless road widening – Hosur Road near Baldwin Boys, useless flyovers – Richmond Circle, road medians that could serve the same purpose with half the size, study tours/junkets, etc) and there is no accountability. BBMP earning potential is huge, needs to be properly harnessed. Sadly earning must be happening but not accruing to the BBMP.

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