No increase in forest cover in Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, finds govt survey
The forest cover in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar remained unchanged in 2021 from what it was in 2019, showed the State of Forest Report, 2021, released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) on January 13 this year
The forest cover in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar remained unchanged in 2021 from what it was in 2019, showed the State of Forest Report, 2021, released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) on January 13 this year. The report also indicates there has been no increase in forest cover in the neighbouring districts of Meerut, Baghpat and Bulandshahr compared to 2019, shows the FSI report.
According to the report, of the total geographical area of 1,282 square kilometres (sqkm) in Gautam Budh Nagar, the district has a forest cover of 20sqm, which is about 1.56%. Likewise, out of the total 1,179sqkm in Ghaziabad, only 25.22sqm (2.14%) is under forest cover.
The report said the two districts have not shown any increase in forest cover compared to the previous assessment carried out in 2019. In fact, the forest cover recorded in Gautam Budh Nagar in 2019 was no different than the assessment carried out in 2017 while there was a decline of -0.78% in Ghaziabad’s forest cover compared to 2017.
Officials of the Uttar Pradesh forest department said in the last few years, many trees have been felled for infrastructure projects while efforts are on to increase the area under plantation.
“The issue is also with the land availability. This is why the compensatory afforestation, which we take up in lieu of permission given for felling of trees for infrastructure projects, is taken up in districts, such as Shravasti, Chitrakoot and Jhansi among others. The forested areas have old plantation and new addition is done only on a rotational basis. Hence, the forest cover has not shown any increase over the years in the region,” said Ganga Prasad, conservator of forests (Meerut) from UP forest department.
Some of the major infrastructure projects which have come up or are under-development includes the Delhi Meerut Expressway, Regional Rapid Transit System, Delhi-Dehradun Expressway, Meerut-Bulandshahr (NH-235) and Eastern Peripheral Expressway. The projects span in Ghaziabad, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Hapur and Baghpat districts, among others.
Officials said the data for the permission obtained for felling trees for infrastructure projects was not readily available.
According to previously reported figures, for instance, the Delhi Meerut Expressway accounted for felling of about 22,000 trees in phase 2 (UP-Gate to Dasna) while phase 4 (Dasna to Meerut) accounted for 11,025 trees while about 5,500 trees were axed for phase 3 (Dasna to Hapur) of the project.
Against this, officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) vouched to plant 101,500 trees in three phases and also paid ₹15 crore for the felled trees to the UP forest department.
According to the FSI report, the forest cover includes all lands measuring over one hectare in area with tree canopy density of more than 10%. The forest cover recorded in the report does not make any distinction between the origin of tree crops (whether manmade or natural) or tree species, and encompasses all kinds of lands, irrespective of their ownership, land use of legal status.
“Since the survey is taken up by the help of a satellite, it may be possible that smaller trees or patches may not have been accounted for. But it is also true that there is a shortage of land for compensatory afforestation and as a result, the exercise is taken up in other districts,” added Prasad.
Officials of the forest department in Ghaziabad could not be reached for comments. P K Srivastava, divisional forest officer of Gautam Budh Nagar, said, “The FSI report will not take into account the plantation taken up in the last five years.” He, however, declined to elaborate further on his remarks.
Overall, in Uttar Pradesh, the forest cover has increased by 6.15% of the total geographical area of 240,928 sqkm.
Environmentalists said the districts have a target of planting 500,000-700,000 plants every year.
“Despite this, there is a shortfall in forest cover. If the forest cover has not increased over the years, there has to be some serious planning. In the coming years, more infrastructure projects will come up and it would mean more trees would be felled,” said Sushil Raghav, an environmentalist from Ghaziabad.
“Plantation is taken up by the forest department and other agencies, besides citizens also do their bit. However, such plantation is scattered and undertaken on a patch of land, which many not qualify as forest cover as per the methodology taken up by FSI for the report. On the other hand, old trees have also been felled for major projects. Hence, more and more plants should be planted on roadsides and vacant patches and the increase may reflect in the coming years,” said Vikrant Sharma, another environmentalist from Ghaziabad.