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Delhi’s green side

As the UN Climate Change Conference opens tomorrow in Copenhagen, there’s good news about Delhi’s greenery

india Updated: Dec 05, 2009 20:19 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Don’t be taken in by the smog. Twenty per cent of Delhi is a jungle.

According to the India State of Forest Report 2009, Delhi’s forest cover, between 2005 and ‘07, increased to 176.58 sq km. The report says that the tree cover rose by 16 sq km. Yet you wonder where is all this greenery hidden? Go to the ridges in Dhaula Kuan, Vasant Vihar, Tughlaqabad, and Lodhi Garden which
harbour a wide variety of trees. Or check out New Delhi, the city’s greenest district with 45 per cent of it under forest. z

South Delhi is another richly wooded place. “The stretch next to Deer Park is completely uncultivated,” says theater person and Safdarjung Enclave resident Sunit Tandon. “Perhaps Delhi’s most beautiful jogging track, there you feel you are in a real jungle.”

Delhi’s recent history, however, has not been kind to greenery. The 1857 uprising against the British resulted in an extensive destruction of the woods around the Red Fort. In 1912, a bomb attack on a British Viceroy led to the chopping of neem and peepal trees in Chandni Chowk. The (old) Delhi station was built on land sequestered from the Queen’s Garden. Portions of what was once the neem-filled Tees Hazari Bagh were made into railway tracks.

Over the years, a great deal of gardens, parks and trees have been lost. In 2008, Delhi Metro was given permission to cut 29, 360 trees for execution of its projects. While the forest cover is showing a slight increase, the city can’t sit smug. “We are in danger of miscalculating the extent to which trees will survive when Delhi’s ecological parameters are stretched,” says Pradip Krishen, the author of Trees of Delhi. “What will happen when our groundwater plummets by another 20 metres? We face the horrible prospect that there will be no water left to spare for luxuries like trees.”