When about 5,200 saplings were planted at the Kuenselphodrang area in Thimphu in 2016, volunteers promised to adopt each of the plants so that they would grow into full trees.

Organised by Tendrel Initiatives, a time-bound organisation formed to organise events to mark the Birth of The Gyalsey in 2016, the tree plantation programme had attracted about 6,000 volunteers. The enthusiasm among the volunteers was so high that they even promised to look after the trees by adopting them.

However, most of the saplings have died due to lack of care from the volunteers, most of whom never returned to the spot after the plantation. Among the surviving ones are pine saplings.

Those that planted were former Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay, Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD), former finance minister Namgay Dorji, former agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji and Members of Parliament.

Not even the chief coordinator of the Tendrel Initiatives, Tenzin Lekphel, has returned to the spot after he planted the trees three years ago. He said he would visit the place although the Tendrel Initiatives handed over the responsibility to look after the plants to Kelki Higher Secondary School.

“I will visit the place to see the plants. We let the Kelki School adopt the trees soon after the plantation ceremony since Tendrel Initiatives was a non-permanent organisation,” Tenzin Lekphel said.

However, he added that the plants were being taken care of by the students and staff members of the Thimphu-based private school after it adopted them.

Possible fire hazards present risks to the trees that spread over five acres of the windy hill as grass has dried because of the dry season. The trees today remain unattended when it requires water the most.

Vice Principal of Kelki Higher Secondary School, Mohan Rai, said that students of his school visited the place twice last year. This year, the school has not visited the place even once.

“We have adopted the plantation. We could not make a visit this year because of inconveniences related to transportation,” the vice principal said.

Near each sapling was a carefully placed placard bearing the name and telephone number of the planter so that those looking after the area would call the planter if the sapling needed extra attention. Only a few placards remain, and phone numbers on the placards are unreadable.

A volunteer who participated in the event said he did not receive any calls. Nor did he visit the place without receiving a call.

The organisers had said that the tree-planting event was aimed at reinforcing people’s pledge to the world to safeguard the planet for future generations.

A resident who lives near the plantation site said they did not see the volunteers visiting to care for the plants. There is a risk of fire during winter months since the place becomes dry.

“The plants need weeding in summer, and protection against fire during dry months,” she said.

Tashi Phuntsho & MB Subba