Delhi's green cover spans nearly 300 sq km, which is about 20% of its entire geographical area.
Yet, all it has in the name of infrastructure for the greens is a single tree ambulance that caters to only 2% of the city, and a near-defunct helpline which receives - when it's operational - just three-four calls a day.
And despite the constant rise of pollution levels in the city, trees are being lopped and felled with impunity. Complaints about trees chocked with cement and hammered with nails are ignored and trees with termites or other diseases are left to die a slow death.
Currently, only the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has just one tree ambulance. And despite constant reminders by the Delhi government, other land-owning agencies such as the three municipal corporations are yet to have such a facility. Worse, the Delhi forest department is yet to revamp its tree helpline despite repeated requests from green activists.
Delhi University professor CR Babu, who is also a member of the Delhi Tree Authority, said, "All civic bodies and land-owning agencies must have tree ambulances. These ambulances must have a pathologist and an ecologist. The horticulture departments must be strengthened. Most agencies don't know anything about tree architecture, but they should learn about it. And they are not short on funds."
But he said that merely having tree ambulances won't help the cause. "People must care for trees. Most lop branches just to let more sunlight to filter through or to avoid insects when a little pruning can do the trick. This is also a reason why we're losing green cover in residential areas," Babu said.
"So much cruelty is being done to trees. If you go to Kingsway Camp in North Delhi, you will see a number of trees being used for putting up advertisements. Nails, as long as six inches, have been hammered in. Who does this? We do it. The city is becoming a concrete jungle. There is no grass cover in paved areas. So there is no moisture retention and trees get uprooted easily," Babu added.
About a month ago, a survey revealed that nearly 100 trees in south Delhi's Sarvodaya Enclave had nails, iron rods and hooks hammered into them. General callousness can be gauged from the state of a Baikin tree, which had as many as 22 nails hammered deep into its trunks. In a two-day exercise, these items, weighing 3.5kg, were removed from the trees.
Protection of green cover is extremely vital as spread over 1,483 sq km, Delhi has a population of 1.7 million. At 11,297 persons per sqkm, it has the highest population density in the country. It's also bearing the burden of a whopping 74 lakh vehicles.