Funds stopped, schools pull out of plantation drive

Around 250 schools in the state have decided to pull out of Eco Club, a centrally funded initiative under which children are encouraged to plant trees, after they stopped receiving the annual grant of Rs 2,500 for the purpose two years ago. The fund is given by the Centre but is disbursed by the state forest department through district education officers (DEOs).

Member schools say they have not received the money from respective DEOs on technicalities. As a result, members schools are no more participating in the tree plantation drives at a time when the state government is pressing ahead with its Van Mahotsav programme.

Altogether, 2500 schools across the state are members of the Eco Club, an initiative started in 2001.

"From 2001 to 2009, the annual grant to a school was Rs 1,000, which was increased to Rs 2,500. But since 2009, most of the schools have not received the money. Initially, the schools did not mind since Eco Club is to promote environmental awareness among schoolchildren. But now, it is becoming impossible for the school management to carry out these activities. Since it is a voluntary activity, there is no point complaining but we have now stopped showing interest in their (Forest Department's) activities," said the principal of a school while requesting anonymity.

Deputy Conservator of Forests (Social Forestry) M B Patel said, "The schools are supposed to furnish vouchers for the money they claim from us. The schools can either directly come to us or they can even get the payment through the DEO by producing these vouchers for the expenses they incur for plantation activities they carry out. Many schools have failed to produce vouchers and so they might not have received the payments."

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