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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Delhi losing greens, forest dept clueless over recovery

Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 29, 2013
First Published: 23:55 IST(29/3/2013) | Last Updated: 02:14 IST(30/3/2013)

For millions of Delhiites, already choked on the polluted air of the city, here is another shocker.

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Lakhs of people living in several colonies across Delhi have been witnessing a quiet destruction of green cover with virtually no hope for compensatory afforestation.

Over 6,000 trees have been felled in Delhi for the expansion of Metro under phase III and over 5,000 are facing the axe. The massive deforestation, being undertaken with the permission of the forest department, will further damage the city’s environment.

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However, what is worrisome is that the department is clueless about how it would ensure that the city gets back its trees — a primary responsibility of the department entrusted with city’s green lifeline.

The matter was exposed by HT through Right to Information (RTI) pleas. The south, north, and west divisions of the department have conceded that they have together allowed felling of 11,556 trees for the third phase of Delhi Metro’s expansion, work for which started in November 2011.

But they have said they don’t have information on the quantum of land needed for plantation of saplings to make up for this massive green loss. The west division responded that it had allowed cutting of 5,974 trees, which have already been felled. Still, it feigns ignorance about the availability of non-forest land.

The south division admitted that no non-forest land has been made available to it for compensatory plantation, the other two chose to duck the question. The three divisions resorted to “no information available” when asked to list the reasons for delay in transfer of land.

As a norm, the department should have kept ready concrete plans before allowing such a sweeping destruction of trees in the Capital.

In case of Metro expansion, the forest department had to ensure that 10 saplings are planted for each tree felled. It seeks non-forest land for the purpose from the Centre and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has to provide funds and maintain this compensatory plantation.

The loss of 11,556 trees will pale into comparison if one considers the fact that eight more applications for felling trees are still pending with the department. Even partial approval of one application alone can lead to felling of hundreds of trees.

“According to an estimation made some time ago, roughly 16,000 trees are needed to be felled for the Metro expansion. As many as 8,030 trees have to be cut to construct the Yamuna Vihar-Mukundpur line, 6,338 trees need to be felled for the Janakpuri-Botanical Garden line, while the Central Secretariat-Kashmere Gate line will account for 1,468 trees,” said a DMRC official.

The 65-km phase 1 saw felling of 13,000 trees while the 125-km phase 2 saw felling of 21,000 trees.

“Compensatory afforestation for trees cut for the 140-km phase 3 would require 125 acres of land. DMRC would need to pay R45 crore for compensatory afforestation. Unavailability of land is a major reason why felling could be delayed or compensatory plantation could be hit,” he said.

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