Tree felling, garbage dumping, threaten Delhi’s Jahanpanah forest
The Jahanpanah City Forest in south Delhi – one of the last dense green patches in the capital, sprawling over 435 acres – is under threat, the state forest department has said.
In a report prepared after an inspection in January this year, the department said illegal activities such as felling of trees, dumping of garbage, encroachment and open defecation by locals were rampant.
The department hinted at the apathy of the authorities as the boundary wall was found to be broken, there were no guards at the gates and the rainwater harvesting system was lying defunct because of lack of maintenance.
“The forest department prepared a report on the state of affairs in the Jahanpanah City Forest, a dense forest, after an inspection in January this year. The report and some suggestions have been sent to the Delhi Development Authority for action,” a senior official of the forest department said. Hindustan Times has a copy of the report.
Senior officials of DDA refused to comment. The commissioner of DDA’s horticulture department, to whom the report was sent, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
When this Hindustan Times reporter visited the spot, he found domestic waste dumped by locals from across the boundary wall. Heaps of polythene bags with waste inside them could be spotted in one corner. Construction and demolition waste was scattered in many places.
In some places, the base of trees was concretised. There were hardly any guards at the gates and people were seen consuming drugs inside the forest area. The toilets were found abandoned, giving rise to open defecation.
The report has highlighted all these violations.
“During the inspection, it was found that a large number of trees had been felled mainly because of the absence of security guards. At least two religious structures had encroached on the vacant spaces; the boundary wall was broken illegally and two gates were built,” the forest official said.
The India State of Forest Report 2017 had said that even though there was a minuscule increase in forest and tree cover in Delhi between 2015 and 2017, the city had lost at least 54 sq km of dense forest during the same time.
Scientists say this is a bad sign because it is actually the dense forests and their thick canopies that help to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
“Garbage is being dumped from the Dakshinpuri side, all along a two-km stretch of the boundary wall. At least three drains carrying sewage from adjoining areas flow into the forest. Pools of waste water have formed and it has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” said Navin Chopra, secretary, Friends of Jahanpanah City Forest.
At least 60-70 acres of plantation have been completely destroyed and the authorities have not taken action such as new plantations.
“This is a city forest. But the authorities are gradually and systematically turning into a park. At least four open air gyms have been built,” said SM Agarwal, president of the organisation named above and a member of the Supreme Court monitoring committee of the city forest.
The forest department suggested a slew of measures that need to implemented to maintain the forest. These include posting of more security guards, police patrol, removal of garbage and debris by the civic body and repairing of the boundary walls.
“City forests like the Jahanpanah forest, which is home to several native plants, should be conserved rather than being converted into a manicured park. Delhi needs more of such forests, which help to clean up the air,” said Padmavati Dwivedi, an activist who conducted Delhi’s first tree census in a south Delhi neighbourhood.