Botanical gardens failed to conserve threatened plants despite Rs 48 crore budget: CAG report

‘Unfruitful’ expenditure of Rs 73.35 lakh on demonstration project by MoEF&CC observed

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Monday 26 December 2022
The gardens failed to develop propagation techniques, which affected the conservation efforts, found CAG. Photo: iStock
The gardens failed to develop propagation techniques, which affected the conservation efforts, found CAG. Photo: iStock The gardens failed to develop propagation techniques, which affected the conservation efforts, found CAG. Photo: iStock

A scheme by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) with a budget of over Rs 48 crore was ineffective in conserving threatened and endemic plants in the country, said a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India for the financial year 2020-2021. The report was released December 23, 2022. 

MoEF&CC could not achieve the ex-situ conservation and multiplication of threatened and endemic plants through the Assistance to Botanic Garden (ABG) scheme. It was implemented through Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and had a budget of Rs 48.07 crore, the report said. 

No environmental benefits were achieved from a demonstration project because of the ministry’s ineffective monitoring and delay in the release of financial assistance, CAG said. The expenditure of Rs 73.35 lakh was “unfruitful”, it further said.   

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MoEF&CC December 2012 decided that BSI would implement the ABG scheme. The budget was sanctioned for it since its inception in 1991 and Rs 10.07 crore was disbursed after 2013, CAG said. 

Besides its headquarters at Kolkata, there are 11 circle offices of BSI in Itanagar, Shillong, Gangtok, Allahabad, Solan, Dehradun, Jodhpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Port Blair.

“Due to non-multiplication of targeted plant species, the same could not be distributed to other organisations for reintroduction. The lead botanic gardens and botanic gardens could not form a network with each other and as a consequence, the gardens failed to generate knowledge and exchange plant materials of the species,” said the report.  

The gardens also failed to develop propagation techniques, which affected the conservation efforts. Hence the objective of conserving threatened plant species by means of the ABG scheme remained “largely unfulfilled”, the report further noted.  

MoEF&CC approved a lab-cum-demonstration project titled Sequential production of Bio-Diesel, Bio-Ethanol, Bio-Hydrogen and Methane from leather solid wastes and effluent treatment sludges. The project was approved for Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai at a total project cost of Rs 77.11 lakh December 2015. 

The project envisaged delivery of environmental benefits like effective solid waste management techniques for tanneries, better pollution abatement techniques, avoidance of groundwater contamination and efficient greenhouse emission control techniques.

Only one unit of a bio-diesel recovery had been established in March 2018 against the expected physical outputs of four distinct fuel recovery units, an audit in January 2022 observed. 

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The unit produced 80 litres of bio-diesel, per the project proposal’s projected output. None of the other three units had achieved fruition as of May 2022. 

The deliverables of 10 international publications in high-impact factored journals and three PhD degrees had also not been achieved, CAG said. 

Several deficiencies had been observed in MoEF&CC’s project management, the report said. Some of there were:

  • Inaction in processing the request of Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai, (CLRI) to revise the number of project fellowships. Due to this, CLRI was unable to retain the project fellows who were engaged in the project;
  • Failure to obtain a formal commitment from the industry partner, which resulted in limited participation by the industry partner;
  • A lack of regular monitoring of the progress of the project, which affected the timely implementation of the project.

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