A walk through south Delhi’s Jahanpanah city forest means wading through piles of plastic bags filled with filth. Here, you will also encounter people drinking, playing cards and even defaecating.
The forest was supposed to be lungs of south Delhi, but rampant encroachment, breached boundaries, and uncontrolled tree-felling are choking it.
Adjoining houses have come up illegally on its boundary walls. The houses in Dakshinpuri colony empty their sewage into the greens and the garbage is simply thrown across the boundary. Hundreds of plastic bags can be found stuck to trees.
Rampant encroachment by jhuggi clusters and religious places is another major problem, thanks to lax security. The forest, notified in 1980, at that time spanned 800 acres. It has now shrunk to 435 acres.
SM Agrawal, president of the group Friends of Jahanpanah City Forest, said, “On complaints from locals, the Supreme Court had ordered authorities to keep the forest green and ensure its proper maintenance. But nothing of that sort happened.”
“Half of the 30 security personnel sanctioned are not found here. Forest fires and petty crimes are routine,” said RK Jain, who frequently visits the forest for morning walks.
In January, Lt Col (retd) BB Sharan, who runs an NGO, wrote to the government about rampant tree-felling by an organised group of security men and contractors.
He also demanded that all trees be numbered and in case tree-felling is detected, action be taken against the guards. Area councillor Sunita Gulliya has also written to the government, saying that more than five years have passed after the Supreme Court order of removing encroachment, but nothing has happened.
These letters failed to nudge the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which owns the forest, or the forest department.
“We have recently constructed concrete boundaries after demolishing stone masonry walls. We’re doing our best to check tree-felling,” said a DDA official, adding “The south corporation has to remove encroachments.” But the ever-growing number of tree stumps tells a different tale.
So does the fact that crime in the area is rising. Residents of nearby areas have complained to the police about cases of petty crimes. Two dead bodies were recently recovered from here.