Delhi forest dept working on draft tree adoption policy
Under the policy, individuals or NGOs will likely be able to take care of a tree for years, with the government providing financial assistance
A banyan tree in the middle of a narrow bylane in Old Delhi’s Nai Sarak, said to be over 150 years old, has been up for “adoption” by the state forest and wildlife department for the last two years, but is yet to be handed over to any individual or NGO, despite local interest. The reason – Delhi formally does not have a tree adoption policy in place which could facilitate the move.
However, the department is planning to formulate rules by the end of the year that will allow people to adopt the Nai Sarak tree, as well as other heritage trees across the Capital, officials said.
Under the proposed tree adoption policy, individuals or NGOs will likely be able to take care of a particular tree for several years, with the government also providing financial assistance, if required, for its upkeep.
Officials said they have begun work on the new policy, and the department plans to table a draft of their policy with Delhi’s Tree Authority (DTA) in its next meeting, scheduled for December.
The decision to facilitate tree adoption this way was taken at the last DTA meeting on August 30, which included participation from the horticulture directors of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).
“Director (horticulture) of the MCD and member of DTA has informed that MCD has already operationalised an online portal for the adoption of trees. It was decided that the department of forest and wildlife will study and assess the tree adoption policy of the MCD for extending it to the entire Delhi. The required proposal may be placed in the next meeting,” said the minutes of the meeting, released on September 4.
A forest department official said the criteria for the policy — the age of tree to be adopted, financial assistance, and the tenure of adoption — will be discussed in due course and can be notified once DTA, the forest department, and the Delhi cabinet approve it. “The aim is to have the policy ready before the next DTA meeting,” the official said.
At present, MCD’s policy does not allow trees to be adopted, but the civic body plants a new sapling as part of its “gift a tree” scheme and takes care of it, on behalf of people. For ₹2,000-2,500, a sapling is planted and the tree guard has details of the person in whose name the tree has been “gifted”.
“We then take care of the tree over its lifetime at no added cost, and the person adopting it can visit it whenever they want and take care of it,” an MCD official said.
Bhavreen Kandhari, an environmental activist, said though the proposal seems good on paper, the forest department and DTA need to focus on other areas first.
“DTA should first prioritise fulfilling its fundamental duty of conducting a comprehensive tree census in Delhi, like they have committed to, before making any decisions regarding tree adoptions. It appears that, without even identifying trees, the authority may be considering transferring the responsibility of protecting the trees to citizens,” she said, adding that Delhi can draw valuable lessons from Chandigarh and Haryana, where the governments have successfully identified heritage trees for protection.