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The Art Of Planting The Last Tree

One needs to innovate to meet targets and that is what IAS Durga Shakti Nagpal did to ensure 100 per cent success of a humoungous plantation drive involving 2.5 million saplings
Indian Masterminds Stories

Politicians, ministers and bureaucrats laying foundation stone of a project or planting the first sapling of a plantation drive is a common sight. Often the projects keep languishing and  saplings die because only a few VIPs keep regular update of their progress & maintenance. But, IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal found an innovative way to ensure this doesn’t happen.

While posted in Mathura as Chief Development officer, she took up an ambitious project of planting 25 lakhs trees in a week. To ensure that project was completed properly she rejected the proposal of planting the first in various village panchayats but instead went to plant the last one.

In an exclusive interview with Indian Masterminds, the 2010 batch officer, currently posted as Deputy Secretary in the Department of Commerce, spoke about her initiative and the challenges that came along with it.

Ms. Nagpal is currently posted as the Deputy Secretary in department of commerce

HIKING THE TARGET FIVE TIMES

Before Ms. Nagpal was posted in Mathura, the district, despite having mighty Yamuna river,  was struggling with continuous depletion of ground water. The district had been declared a dark zone as the water level was going down steeply. Use of tube wells had been banned. The only way to sort this problem was to plant more and more tree that can hold the soil & increase the water table. The state government ordered plantation of five lakhs tress in the district.

The then CDO Ms. Nagpal who has a special love for environment protection decided to increased the target by five times. She convened a meeting with her team and decided to plant 25 lakh trees within seven days. This was a huge challenge and demanded too much determination & work. Her team was hesitant at first but eventually came along after seeing her enthusiasm.

WORKING 18 HOURS A DAY

Remembering the events that folowed she said, “It might sound easy but was a herculean task. We started with identifying the land and ended with ordering the saplings. Lot of the energy and time went in planning so that the execution was smooth. We had to maintain continuous supply chain to ensure the safety of plants. I still thank the people who supported me at that time & worked 18 hours a day without complaining. I wouldn’t be possible without them”.

Ms. Nagpal asserted that didn’t just want to show only a big number. The real target was to plant as many saplings and ensure most of, rather all of them, to grow into huge trees.

PLANTING THE LAST ONE

When this whole campaign was going and community lands were being identified few Sarpanchs came to meet her. They wanted her to plant the first tree to a kickstart the campaign in heir respective villages. She asked for some time to finalise her schedule.

But, later while pondering over intricacies of the entire project and modalities to achieve her final objective, she tweaked the entire plantation process. She knew she could not take care  

Ms. Nagpal during a social event

of each and every sapling and she had to depend on the local population to ensure their survival. The people involved in the campaign might not be as serious and dedicated as me. They could simply forget the whole thing after a couple of days and saplings would dry up and die. So she came up with an idea.  

“ I decided not to plant the first tree and move on to next village because this might just defeat my purpose. So, I told them that I will plant the last sapling in their respective villages.”

She announced that before the ceremony she would inspect the already planted saplings and would go ahead only when she found all other saplings in a healthy state. “This way I ensured that the the plantation drive would be done properly and the saplings would be in good care. You would be surprised to know why the survival rate of our plantation drive was 85 per cent against an ordinary survival rate of 40%.”, Ms Nagpal told Indian Masterminds.


Indian Masterminds Stories

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