Around 18 years after the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, came into force, and asked the government to conduct - among other things -a tree census, officials are finally bracing for the job. But roadblocks have already started appearing.
According to a rough estimate, the government will need about 10,000 people for the job. The reason: as per government definition, "every green little thing" 5 cm in diameter is a tree.
"Nobody knows how to count them all," said a government official. The government have opted for a short-cut - RWAs will do the job for them. The government will later validate the data and award the "greenest" colonies.
"If the government does it (tree census) on its own, it will at least need 10,000 people in a year. This has to be followed by constant updating of data in case trees are felled for development projects," said the official.
So what's the way out? "We're asking RWAs to do the census for us. RWAs don't have to follow to a legal definition. They can focus on fully-grown trees," he said. "The problem is, greening agencies confine themselves to the trees on roads. Eco clubs' priorities are schools. We want RWAs to develop an emotional connect with trees and do the census," he added.
"Once the trees are numbered, you will get to know if something is amiss, for example, if a tree is felled," he said.
Delhi chief secretary Praveen Kumar Tripathi recently said that the government would carry out a city-wide tree census. The chief secretary had then admitted that people were not open the idea of counting and marking trees within their residential space.
In the absence of a census, plans for protection and addition of green cover have not been effective. The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), which covers only 3% of the Capital, had done a tree census in its area.
"Recently, a tree census report was prepared by the residents of South Delhi colony Sarvodaya Enclave, in association with civil society group Green Circle. In subsequent days, reports from other areas, such as Sundar Nagar and Jor Bagh will also be released. Gradually, we will cover the entire city," Suhas Borker of Green Circle said.