Delhi is losing one of its most precious assets - green cover.
At 20%, the Capital may look "adequately green" but cannot afford a slide as it also has the highest population density in the country - 11,297 persons per sq km. Also, the city is woefully short of the Planning Commission's target of 33% green cover.
Delhi has failed to achieve its own target of 30% green cover by 2011. The government's climate change action plan aimed at achieving similar goals but it (the plan) has now been modified with "a view to working towards the future."
A Forest Survey of India report -India State of Forest Report, 2011 (released in 2012) - has pointed at a reduction of green cover by 0.38 sq km. The biennial FSI report also prompted the Planning Commission to seek an explanation from the Delhi government.
Even the latest economic survey of the Delhi government has admitted: "Rapid rise in population and speedy economic development has also raised the concern of environmental degradation. The economics of environmental pollution, depletion and degradation of resources did not get as much attention as compared to the issues of growth and development."
But the same survey has baffled many environmentalists. The report claims a whopping 1.78 crore saplings were planted in the Capital in the last 12 years. This translates to roughly 1.5 million plants a year. The report even claims that in recent years, plantation has exceeded its targets.
"Most plantation drives are carried out only on paper. Lack of adequate post-plantation care leads to dying of many saplings. If so many saplings were actually planted and cared for, Delhi would not have been losing green cover," said tree activist Rajiv Mahunta.
Plus there are infrastructure projects. "Delhi government's own audit report has indicated that the forest department is not adhering to, in toto, the norm of planting 10 saplings for each tree felled," said another tree activist. The last two phases of Delhi Metro alone accounted for 34,000 trees and 16,000 more will go in the current leg.
"Where is the space for such a massive plantation? Saplings don't survive if there is no adequate space between them. If you plant two Pilkhan saplings in an area of three feet, you'd better not plant them," said a member of the authority.
"Massive plantation is undertaken every year with the involvement of government departments, municipal bodies, NGOs, civil society groups, citizens, RWAs, besides schools and colleges. Our Parks and Gardens Society has provided funds and saplings to 320 RWAs looking after 1,800 parks," said a Delhi government official.