In what should be of concern to Gurgaon residents and environment activists, the city has lost five times more tree cover this year, according to official data. As many as 8,000 full-grown trees have been chopped off this year which is the highest as compared to the last three years.
The disturbing figures has only served to drive worries at a time the city has already lost 8% of its total forest area. The fast depleting green cover has been blamed on the lack of awareness and failure to frame and implement a policy dedicated towards saving the city’s fauna. According to forest department records, Gurgaon has a total forest area of 1,600 acres, which works out to about 2% of the total area of the city. However, what has got the green activists worried is that of the total forest area, 130 acres has been lost to construction activities or other projects.
According to the forest department data, Gurgaon lost 1,430 fully grown trees in 2015-16, as compared to 1,604 that were axed in 2014-15.The trees chopped off for developmental projects, both government-funded and private, in 2013-’14, amount to 1,657. There has only been an incremental rise in the number of trees felled to clear the ground for construction and commercial projects over the years, the officials of the forest department said.
Asked why the city has been losing its green cover at an alarming rate despite a rule mandating developers or agencies to plant 10-times more trees than are felled to free up space for commercial or government projects, the forest department officials said though the rules are in place to save and restore the city’s green cover, these are seldom followed in letter and spirit.
“While all permissions for cutting trees to make space for development projects were granted, the compulsory plantation for every tree felled was neither carried out by municipal bodies nor private agencies,” MD Sihna, conservator of forest, South Haryana, said.
Environment activists warned that the felling of trees, if allowed unchecked, could prove disastrous for the city. “This (cutting of trees) is the primary reason why the city’s green cover is shrinking every year. While trees are being felled indiscriminately, not enough are being planted in the urban areas,” Jintender Bhadana, an activist associated with Save Aravalli, an NGO, said.
While pollution levels have been on the rise and environmentalists have raised alarm over the city’s shrinking forest cover and urged measures to save the fauna, nothing has been done on the ground.
“The city’s Master Plan 2031 says the green belts are temporary in nature. This clearly shows that the government has no plan or inclination to restore the city’s green cover,” Vivek Kamboj, a city-based environmentalist, said.
Currently, the forest cover accounts for less than 1% of Gurgaon’s urban area. The experts opined that the poor air quality in the city over the last three months is a direct fallout of the depleting forest cover.
Anumita Roy Chowdhary, executive director, research and advocacy and head of the air pollution and clean transportation programme, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “Green cover plays a crucial role in curbing pollution. However, the developers are not very supportive towards our effort to plant more trees in the city. Development and environment projects should support each other, as this will help improve the air quality in the region.”