Delhi’s forest cover has gone up by 3.61 square kms, a latest report of the forest survey of India has said, lauding the forest department for its plantation and protection activities.
The spike is good news as every year thousands of trees, which keeps pollution and temperature in check and groundwater re-charged, are being felled to build Metro, elevated road corridors and other infrastructure projects.
The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2013 says of the nine districts in Delhi, five — east, northwest, southwest, south and west — have registered an increase in forest cover. At 2.83 sqkm, southwest Delhi has gained maximum.
The performance of three districts — New Delhi, central and north —has remained unchanged. Only northeast district has registered a decline — 0.08 sqkm.
This report is based on interpretation of satellite data received between October 2010 and January 2012. The overall increase was noticed when this report is compared with the ISFR 2011, based on satellite data received from 2006 to 2008.
The ISFR 2011 had raised concerns as it had shown that though Delhi’s 20% area was green but at the same time the green cover had come down by .38 sqkm —compared to a previous report based on satellite data of 2006— because of a shortfall in compensatory afforestation. The National Forest policy had in 1988 called for at least 33% green cover in each state.
The latest report, however, should not make the forest department complacent. The Centre’s plantation target for the Delhi in 2013-14 was 7.93 lakh saplings in 1,220 hectares. But only 5.51 lakh saplings could be planted in 847.85 hectares — a deficit of 30%, both in terms of land and saplings.
“To an explanation sought by the Delhi government, we have attributed the shortfall to shortage of land,” said a senior forest department official. But as per law, the forest department is bound to locate land for plantation before they allow cutting of trees.
Anoop Badhwa, inspector general of forests, ministry of environment, has asked Delhi chief secretary SK Srivastava to periodically review plantation and submit monthly progress reports. For 2014-15, the target for Delhi is plantation over 1,380 hectares of land.