It predates the seven cities of Delhi and has sustained life for millennia.
The Ridge, an extension of the Aravalli mountain range which is believed to be 2.5 billion years old, has valiantly borne the ravages of time but finds itself falling in the face of the development rush of the past 50 years.
A 7,784 hectare area in the midst of the sprawling city, the Ridge acts as an air purifier and an air conditioner for the entire Capital.
Those who live near the city forest observe a palpable difference in the temperature in their homes and that in homes away from the Ridge. We, however, have not yet been able to demarcate the exact boundaries of what comprises Ridge and what doesn’t.
Senior forest department officials say the geo-mapping of the area is complete but unless the areas are demarcated on the ground, this mapping serves no purpose.
“We can look at satellite images and draw conclusions but they serve no purpose till the Delhi government’s revenue department does not demarcate the area. We have provided a list of areas that we consider to be part of the Ridge but this had to change in the revenue department records,” said a senior official.
This, according to experts, is among the biggest obstacles in the conservation of the area. Environmentalist Sunita Narain, who is a member of the Ridge Management Board, has also pointed out several times that marking the Ridge’s boundaries is the first step in its conservation.
The multiplicity of agencies that govern the Ridge is also a problem. Different parts of the forest are under different agencies that choose to manage it in their own way. So while DDA may want to develop some areas as parks, the forest department looks at the whole area as a forest where nothing but trees should grow.
The conflict with development and urbanisation has meant authorised and unauthorised encroachments that constantly threaten the fragile ecosystem.
Last year, the National Green Tribunal ordered the demolition of illegal constructions in the Southern Ridge.
This included expansive farmhouses that came up right under the noses of the authorities.
Several prominent institutions and housing colonies that predate the notification that declared the Ridge a protected forest area also bear testimony to the maltreatment of the area.