BENGALURU: From planting 1.75 lakh saplings to conducting a tree census, the BBMP has chalked out several ambitious programmes to make Bengaluru greener this monsoon. But the civic agency’s forest cell is reeling under a severe staff shortage with 44 of the 54 sanctioned posts lying vacant, raising doubts on whether its plans will come to fruition.With several of his missives to the BBMP bosses to fill the vacancies falling on deaf ears, MK Cholarajappa, BBMP’s forest cell head and deputy conservator of forests, has requested that all existing staff be repatriated to their parent forest department if recruitments can’t be done. Cholarajappa’s request came in a letter he wrote to the parent department two months ago. In fact, he’s not the first BBMP forest cell head to be driven to exasperation by apathetic civic bosses. His predecessor Brijesh Kumar had also made a request in 2014, saying he and his team be repatriated to their parent forest department as they found it humiliating to work when unfounded and unrelated allegations were made against them. Kumar’s team had 17 forest officials as against the sanctioned staff of 54. But Cholarajappa has only nine supporting staffers, which he feels is not enough to execute his duties. A team of officials under Kumar’s leadership had even gone on mass leave as a mark of protest. Cholarajappa’s team has no such plan as of now. Cholarajappa told TOI he’s saddled with many responsibilities, the biggest of which is handling the sapling plantation programme. “Last year, we didn’t have such a programme. We have decided to ulitise Rs 5 crore earmarked for the previous year and Rs 5 crore for this year to plant 1.75 lakh saplings in the city. Another 75,000 saplings will be kept ready and will be planted next year,” he said. “It is difficult for me to run the Palike’s forest wing. Eight posts of range forest officers are vacant. It’s like having a police station but no inspectors to carry out the work. The BBMP forest wing is a quasijudicial body and I don’t even have office superintendents to assist me in my daily routine.” Another officer from the wing said it’s frustrating to hear a few corporators accusing them of making money. “If we had to make money, we wouldn’t have been working in the forest department. We have a lot of things to do. Apart from maintaining greenery, we have to conduct regular hearings on issues related to tree cutting under various infrastructure projects. We don’t have a team to conduct investigation in case a FIR is filed for alleged tree cutting,” he lamented.