Assam tree plantation
The drive, which has been named as the "Amrit Brikshya Jan Andolan" is aimed at planting 1 crore trees across Assam

Guwahati: Assam has launched a state-wide tree plantation drive starting from September 9, 2023.

The drive, which has been named as the “Amrit Brikshya Jan Andolan” is aimed at planting 1 crore trees across Assam. On Sunday, people across the state participated in this massive plantation drive.

While the initiative is commendable, there are some flaws in the execution of the drive.

One of the biggest problems is that the trees that are being planted are commercial species, such as teak and other non-native trees.

Wildlife activist Mubina Akhtar said, “We have been hearing that Israel among others had been planting trees in Assam for several years, but in reality, this is only on paper and not on the ground. This all relates to the carbon credit topic.”

“Speaking of the plantation where around 1 crore trees are expected to be planted, the objective is not quite clear. Also, where will these trees be planted, will they only be planted on the roadside, at fields, or where? The plan sounds good, but the objective does not sound quite clear”, she added.

She further added, “The question arises is will these trees be compensation for the trees that are being chopped down due to the ongoing construction work? Even if this is a compensation, it will take another 10 to 20 years for them to grow and be effective. What about till then?”

Environmental activist Durlabh Talukdar said, “While planting trees is a welcome initiative, we need to think of what is wrong with the appeal made. The CM had appealed to plant commercial trees and also said that people would be paid a certain amount to plant a tree and look after it.”

He added that the main issue here was the topic that the trees may be of commercial nature which may later be cut down.

“A tree takes more than a decade before it can be said a fully grown one. If the grown tree is chopped and replaced by a sapling, will it be beneficial to nature?”

“No one can guarantee that”, he added.

He further said that the government and especially Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma should focus on creating awareness among people to plant more.

“Also, if CM is really concerned about the environment, he should take pledge that trees would not be cut down for developmental work”, he said.

Former associate professor of North Guwahati College and member of All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) Tapan Kumar Sarma said there are questions about the money that will be spent, the quality of the plants, and the type of trees that will be planted.

The plantation drive is expected to cost around Rs 450 crores if it is calculated at an average of Rs 450.

“One report was seen where many of the plants that were procured from outside the state were not of the right size for plantation. The packets that the saplings were sent in were also too small, which made them unfit for planting”, he added.

He further said that another concern is whether the saplings that are not indigenous to Assam will survive.

There is no guarantee that these trees will be able to adapt to the local climate, he added.

“Forcing trees to grow in an unsuitable environment could have negative consequences”, he said.

He also said that it is important to ensure that public money is spent wisely.

A source said that the state government or to be exact, the social forestry department had around 30 lakh saplings with them and the rest were tendered out for procurement from various parties.

The estimate number of saplings to be bought is around 70 lakh and the average price is said to be around Rs 50 per sapling.

The source also said that only 30 per cent of the trees that would be planted at such a huge cost would survive.

A law & order journalist from Assam who has been working for North East Now as the Senior Reporter since 2018. His beats include politics and the environment. Follow Mohsin Khaiyam on