According to the latest findings of the Forest Department, Chandigarh has become the greenest city in the country.
The joint capital of Punjab and Haryana has a forest and tree cover of 35.5 per cent in its 114-sq km area, says the Forest Department.
The city, the first planned one in post-independent India, came into being in the early 1950s through the design of French architect Le Corbusier.
An agriculturist-bureaucrat, MS Randhawa, is credited with the large variety of trees that were planted when the city was in its infancy.
The tree cover saved Chandigarh from becoming an all-concrete jungle, a fate that has overcome many Indian towns.
"Watching the city sitting by the window of Hotel Shivalikview's Yangtse Chinese restaurant on the sixth floor gives you a feeling that you are living in a forest. It is so green everywhere. The buildings and houses are hardly visible," lawyer Guneet Chaudhary said.
He pointed out that the Sector 16 cricket stadium where the likes of Kapil Dev trained was no longer visible from the restaurant.
"This shows the green cover has gone up. Earlier one could sit in this restaurant and watch matches from a distance. But no longer now," said the man visibly proud of Chandigarh.
The Chandigarh administration's Forest and wildlife department and the local municipal corporation's horticulture wing say that over 2.2 million tree saplings of various varieties were planted in the last 15 years.
Of these, the forest department alone planted over 1.93 million saplings.
"Chandigarh has become a national leader in green cover," says a forest official. The forest department and other agencies have been distributing free saplings and also selling them at subsidised rates to encourage the spread of green. The forest department alone distributed over 370,000 free tree saplings.
NGOs, educational institutions, resident welfare associations and common people were involved in the plantation programme.
With Chandigarh becoming the latest IT destination, permission has been given in the last three decades to fell trees. Nearly 14,000 trees were felled in the last 15 years.
But over 50,000 new saplings were planted to compensate the loss.
Chandigarh, originally planned for 5,00,000 residents by Le Corbusier, is now home to nearly one million people, including over 3,00,000 slum dwellers.