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Tree cover improved in capital since 2017, states report

PUBLISHED ON DEC 30, 2019 10:43 PM IST

New Delhi The national capital’s total green cover has increased by 1.3% since 2017, as per the Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR), 2019, released on Monday. The green cover, including total forest and tree cover, increased to 324.44 square kilometres (sqkm) from 305.41 sqkm in 2017, as per the biennial report.

While there was no significant increase in ‘dense’ and ‘moderately dense’ forest cover, only the ‘open forest’ area, which primarily includes plantations outside the forest cover, increased to 132 sqkm from 129.45 sqkm, indicating growth in recently planted trees.

The ‘very dense forest’ cover (6.72 sqkm) remains the same as that of 2017, while the ‘moderately dense forest’ too saw a minimal increase, from 56.24 sqkm in 2017 to 56.42 sqkm this year.

However, the tree cover saw an increase of 16sqkm in area, from 113 sq km in 2017 to 129 sqkm this year, as per the report. The net green cover is now at 21.86% of the total geographical area (1,483 sqkm) of the city. The green cover should be at least 20% of the total area in the plains, it said.

Of the total forest cover, South Delhi district recorded the maximum increase of 1.28 sq km, followed by South West Delhi, with an increase of 1.09 sqkm. The Central and North districts did not see any change in the cover, as per the report.

Forest cover refers to all lands, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10%, including orchards, bamboos and palm. Tree cover comprises tree patches outside the recorded forest area, it further said.

As per the report, the dominant tree species outside of forests mainly include prosopis juliflora, azadirachta indica, morus species and eucalyptus, which are exotic varieties.

Officials of the Delhi forest department said that the increase in tree cover is significant and is mainly because of the large-scale plantations. “Around 54 lakh trees were planted over the past two years by various agencies as well as citizens. Some of these plantations will grow to be counted in the ‘moderately dense forest’ in the next two years, which will help increase the cover and to fight pollution better,” said Ishwar Singh, principal chief conservator of forests and the head of department.

The Delhi government earlier said it has set a target of increasing the city’s green cover to 25% by 2025.

Experts, praising the increase in tree cover, said that the rise in the overall green cover is not significant.

CR Babu, professor emeritus at the Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Ecosystems at Delhi University, said, “Some of the plantations such as those in Garhi Mandu, some patches around Kashmere Gate and Tughlaqabad, among others, are good. However, most of the dense forest, which consists of the ridge, has only exotic and invasive species. Except for the two biodiversity parks and patches of natural forests, there is no quality ecosystem in Delhi. The increase in green cover will be significant only when the number of ecosystems increases.”

Environmentalist and author Pradip Krishen, said that the increase in green cover only represents a quantitative increase. “There is no qualitative change in the forests of Delhi. The Central Ridge, the densest forest in the city, has only exotic species. Any real change will come with planting the right kind of species that suit the native ecosystem.”

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