The Delhi government and various greening and land-owning agencies plant lakhs of trees every year in the Capital. Yet, the government's target of 30% greenery has for years remained unfulfilled by a good margin.
For the first time, the government is trying to know where the problem lies. Delhi's tree authority, set up in 2007 for the protection of trees, has started a process of third-party verification to know the survival rate of saplings planted by various agencies in the name of much-hyped drives.
"About 20 lakh saplings are said to be planted in the Capital every year. Survival of even half the saplings should have turned Delhi into a dense forest by now," said a member of the authority.
"The verification plan we're working on can be done by anyone outside the government. We have prepared draft guidelines to verify compensatory afforestation done by government agencies," he said. Tree activists have for long been complaining that saplings are not cared for after plantation drives.
With 20 per cent green cover, Delhi is one of greenest cities in the country. But the Capital also has the highest population density -11,297 persons per sqkm. While the Planning Commission's target is 33% forest and tree cover, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had promised a 30% green cover by 2011.
Yet, the green belt has not gone up. According to a latest report of Forest Survey of India (FSI), it has in fact come down by a good 0.38 sqkm in recent years. "We don't go by the FSI report but we will find out the number of trees felled for Metro and road projects," he said.
"We want to know if the mandatory 10 times afforestation has been done in all cases," he added. Members of the tree authority proposed that at development project sites, information on the number of trees felled and the quantum, locations and executing agencies of afforestation should be provided.
The Planning Commission recently asked the Delhi government to explain a decline in the forest cover. The government claims the forest survey has not mentioned the correct figures of afforestation done by Delhi.