Metro does provide a cool and swift ride and helps reduce vehicular pollution. But the non-availability of adequate non-forest land to plant saplings and compensate for trees felled, apart from delaying the phase III expansion, may also cause greater green loss to the capital.
A Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Hindustan Times has revealed that while the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation sought felling of 19,175 trees, Delhi and Central governments have given permission for felling only 12,353 trees. While 4,182 have already been cut, permission for 6,822 trees is still pending. Of this, permission for about 3,500 trees is pending with the Centre.
As per the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, for each tree felled, 10 saplings have to be planted and maintained in non-forest land to make up for the green cover loss.
"For us, maintaining and augmenting greenery is a top priority. But things are getting really complicated. The Centre recently requested us to reduce the number of trees to be planted for each tree felled from the standard 10 to now 3 or 4 as seen in other states such as Goa, in view of non-availability of land in Delhi," said a senior forest department official.
“Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has also proposed compensatory plantation in already existing forests and even in rocky terrains. But you need non-forest land to make up for the loss. DDA says it’s not feasible for it to hand over land to us because city forests already exist where plantation can be taken up,” he said.
The official also said that the national target for green cover is 33 per cent.
While Delhi’s green cover is 20 per cent, in recent years there has been a decline of 0.38 sq km.
Top government sources admitted that the expansion would be delayed by several months as a large chunk of forest land under the Central government has to be converted into non-forest land for the project.
On completion, the phase III project will provide connectivity along Ring Road and Outer Ring Road covering areas such as Punjabi Bagh, INA, Lajpat Nagar, Dhaula Kuan, Vasant Vihar, IIT, Hauz Khas and Palam.