Rapid housing and infrastructure expansion has led to a steep decline in the city’s forest cover.
According to the latest report — Forest and Tree Resources — issued by the Forest Survey of India, forest cover in Ghaziabad, including Hapur district, has declined by 1 square kilometre (sq km) as compared to the 2013 survey when the forest cover stood at 50 square kilometre.
In comparison to a previous 2001 survey by the FSI, the city has lost around 67 square kilometre of the forest cover till 2015.
Spread over an area of 2,590 square kilometre, Ghaziabad had a forest cover of nearly 116 square kilometre in 2001. This has now declined to 49 square kilometre (approx 247 acres) as per the latest FSI report. In percentage terms, the city witnessed a decline in the forest area from 4.48 per cent in 2001 to 1.89 per cent in 2015.
The forest cover includes all lands, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 per cent.
According to the present survey, Ghaziabad has 18 square kilometre of moderately dense forest and another 31 square kilometre of open forest areas. These were 112 square kilometre and 4 square kilometre, respectively, in 2001. In the year 2011, the forest cover in Ghaziabad stood at 49 square kilometre, indicating no change during the past four years despite claims of massive plantation drives undertaken by various agencies.
“This exposes the sheer apathy of the agencies that claim planting thousands of trees every year to fulfil government targets. The unplanned urbanization and increased concretisation have further eliminated any possibility of the rise in tree plantation,” said Akash Vashistha, an environment activist.
However, the officials of the forest department refused to accept the report. “Almost all our forest areas in the district are saturated at present because of the recent plantation drive. The decline could be because of the other area of Hapur included along with Ghaziabad in the survey. We will get it checked,” said Joga Singh, divisional forest officer, Ghaziabad.
The other forest officer from neighbouring Hapur district also refused to admit the decline in the forest cover in his district and blamed construction activities in Ghaziabad.
“Massive housing construction and infrastructure activities are being undertaken in Ghaziabad. In Hapur, there is hardly any such development. We already have 750 hectare of reserved forest in our jurisdiction out of which nearly 500 hectare is part of Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary. The trees cannot be felled here,” said PN Singh, forest officer, Hapur.
Apart from Ghaziabad, other districts like Pilibhit, Maharajganj, Kheri, Ghazipur and Balia also recorded a decline as compared to the previous years.
Overall, the state of Uttar Pradesh witnessed an increase from 5.71 per cent of forest cover in 2001 to 6 per cent in 2015 out of a total geographical area of 2,40,928 square kilometre.