With 20 per cent forest cover, Delhi may be one of greenest capitals but its tree helpline — started years ago —has been defunct for six months.
A number of people with information on damages to trees have been dialling government offices and journalists to know the number, but without any success.
A forest department wing where people could call and lodge complaints had to be shifted in March/April after a fire broke out. The facility has not been revived since then. But the facility was not very effective even when it was operational.
“A person used to take calls and forward the details to departments concerned,” admitted an official.
The government said it had decided not only to revive the line but make it much better.
“We will set up a 24x7 tree helpline, outsourced on the lines of call centres. We will also introduce a voicemail facility — a computer-based system that allows users to exchange voice messages using a telephone — in the new helpline,” said a senior government official.
“A lot of firms have applied. We will select one of them and, hopefully, the new facility will start very soon,” he said.
“Earlier, massive staff shortage in the forest department and lack of publicity failed in making the helpline more effective. Somebody may pick up the phone but if he’s not an expert, what’s the use? There’s no follow up. There are not enough forest rangers who can rush to the spot,” said a tree expert, who is also a member of Delhi’s tree authority.
The revamped helpline will attend to complaints regarding damages such as felling, damaging or lopping. Using this service, people can also get to know where to get new saplings from. Officials will provide details of nurseries supplying free saplings.
“We’re also working on a web portal using which residents will be able to upload pictures of such activities and action will follow,” the official said.