In March 2019, the government unveiled an ambitious plan of planting 50 million tree saplings in a year. The plan, made on the occasion of International Forest Day 2019, would be supported by the budgetary backing when the government allocated a budget for a tree plantation programme.
Presenting the budget in Parliament, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada announced, “The coming fiscal year will be declared the Afforestation Year during which a plantation campaign of timber, non-timber and fruit saplings will be undertaken.”
The campaign included tree plantation on vacant forest areas, reclaimed river areas, public lands and private forests.
The government formally launched the plantation drive that same year from Kathmandu. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and several ministers from his Cabinet inaugurated the campaign. A total of 2,600 saplings of various species were planted along the Koteshwor-Kalanki section of the Ring Road in June.
It seemed like an earnest beginning at the time.
When the Post reached out to the officials involved in the campaign to inquire about the progress of the Afforestation Year on Friday, which happened to be the World Environment Day, it became apparent that the campaign had fizzled out.
Nearly a year into the campaign, and the government is nowhere near its target of planting 50 million saplings.
Sindhu Prasad Dhungana, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forest and Environment, the lead agency overseeing the campaign, told the Post nearly 6 million tree saplings had been planted so far.
“The data on tree plantation is up to the month of Falgun (Feb/March). It will be updated by the end of the fiscal year,” Dhungana said. Going by the ministry’s data, the government is still short of 44 million saplings to reach its 50 million target. In other words, the campaign seems to have failed.
However, the ministry officials insist that they will meet their target by the end of the current fiscal year, which is a little over a month away from now.
They hope the plantation drive will pick up pace in the coming weeks, once the monsoon begins.
The government has also roped in the private sector in its year-long plantation drive. How much contribution the private sector had in the plantation of 6 million trees was not clear.
According to Dhungana, government agencies related to forestry were responsible for the distribution of 17.5million saplings for the drive.
“The 6 million saplings we planted were supplied by the government agencies. Since this is a nationwide plantation campaign, other government agencies and the private sector were also encouraged to take part,” Dhungana told the Post.
Forestry-related agencies were also tasked with the responsibility of tending to the saplings. However, most of the tree saplings that were planted in Kathmandu to inaugurate the campaign had started to wilt and die within a week.
Dhungana, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Forest and Environment, claims the government will meet the plantation target, he has no idea how many of the planted saplings managed to survive.
“We cannot zoom in from Kathmandu to see what’s going on with the saplings across the country,” he said.
The government is confident about meeting its target of planting 50 million saplings by the end of this fiscal year, but it is not so sure whether those saplings will one day grow to become tree;.
Chandan Kumar Mandal is the environment and migration reporter for The Kathmandu Post, covering labour migration and governance, as well as climate change, natural disasters, and wildlife.
Published June 5 2020 on The Kathmandu Post.