Mandi: They were once planted with a motive to attract the tourists, but hundreds of saplings on the national highway are now fighting for their survival. Under the eco-tourism project, saplings were planted on the national highway passing through Mandi, Sundernagar, Gauhar, Paddar, Jogendranagar and Karsega divisions of Mandi district. However, in the absence of maintenance, these saplings have dried out, thus raising questions on the efficacy of the scheme.

Inorder to attract tourists to a provision was made to plant aromatic plants and flowers alongside the highway. The Public Welfare Department (PWD) is given the responsibility for the plantation drive.

Every year government provides 5,000 saplings to each division of PWD for the plantation alongside the national highway. The saplings costing Rs 15 each are planted in accordance with the climate of the district. These saplings include variety of Bottle Brush, Silver Oak and Jasmine. The prime objective of the scheme is to enhance the beauty around the region including the national highway to attract visitors.

But the fact is that progress comes with a price. The saplings planted have dried out incurring huge losses to the state government.

The department when questioned over the issue appeared to be busy saving its face. SDO of Horticulture wing of PWD said, “Our work is to provide saplings to the PWD. But the PWD staff is responsible to look after the saplings till they grow.”

The department is preparing thousands of saplings in nursery to be planted at the national highway, he maintained.