Ten trees for every one cut -- if Delhi had followed this norm to a T, most parts of the city would have turned into a dense forest by now.
Over the past two decades, massive afforestation drives were undertaken to compensate for the loss of green cover. According to some reports, nearly 1.8 crore trees were planted in the city since 2001.
But there were problems in the way these drives were carried out. The result: at 20%, Delhi’s forest cover falls short of the desired 33% mark.
Most of this plantation happened in areas such as Asola Bhatti, where the forest department and ecology experts got a free hand to plan and execute the afforestation drive. But the remaining areas saw haphazard and poorly planned drives; trees were either planted too close to each other or high-maintenance species were planted.
According to Comptroller and Auditor General of India report in 2009, the Delhi government gave permission to cut 30,863 trees between 2005 and 2008 with a condition that 2.99 lakh saplings will be planted. As per the report, neither could the plantation target be completed nor was the balance plantation charges of over Rs 6 crore recovered.
According to the report, only 1.8 lakh trees were re-planted and the government failed to recover the cost of balance plantation (1.19 lakh trees at the rate of Rs 650 per tree) from the defaulters. While things have got better, with stricter implementation over the years, the city has routinely missed out on its plantation targets. What is worse, in the absence of an audit, no record of how many saplings having survived after the first year of plantation has been maintained.
Plantation and aforestation drives are on to reach the goal of increasing Delhi’s forest cover to 25% in the next five years. The plan is to plant 12 lakh saplings this year itself, mostly in the eastern banks of the Yamuna, Asola and Najafgarh areas.
Of this, around 5 lakh will be planted by the forest department, two lakh by the Delhi Development Authority, two lakh by the municipal corporations, one lakh by the PWD, one lakh by the Delhi Parks and Gardens Society and around 50,000 by the Delhi Cantonment Board.
“A successful afforestation drive takes around five years to show results. Care has to be taken about what specie is being planted and where. A good tree cover attracts birds and after that it becomes easy as birds help in seed dispersal,” said Tarun Coomar, Delhi’s chief conservator of forests.