World Environment Day: What should be Delhi’s priority, ornamentation or ecology?
While more than eight lakh saplings comprising trees, shrubs and herbs are planted across Delhi every year, experts have raised questions on whether the right species are being planted.Updated: Jul 03, 2017, 15:54 IST
While more than eight lakh saplings comprising trees, shrubs and herbs are planted across Delhi every year, experts have raised questions on whether the right species are being planted. (Sanjeev Verma / Hindustan Times)
Ornamentation or ecology — what should be the priority while planting trees in Delhi — is the question being raised in the city’s green circle on the World Environment Day.
While more than eight lakh saplings comprising trees, shrubs and herbs are planted across Delhi every year, experts have raised questions on whether the right species are being planted.
“Not all trees would be suited for Delhi. Any tree which would do well on the roadside without much care can be safely concluded to be apt for Delhi’s ecology and climate. Trees which make the city look beautiful may not necessarily be suited,” said Prabhakar Rao, member of Kalpavriksha Environment Action Group.
An example of not planting the right trees could be the 80 species of bottle palm trees along Shanti Path in the embassy enclave in Chanakyapuri.
Experts say that bottle palm needs a lot of maintenance and is not best suited to Delhi. Such species grow mostly near coastal areas where they get a lot of moisture and a climate which is not harsh.
Delhi on the other hand has to withstand extreme weather conditions both in summers and in winters. The city receives only around 77cm of rain every year resulting in dry conditions.
The New Delhi Municipal Council, which did the palm plantation in 2015, however, says it was done for aesthetics.
“We have to keep in mind what looks good and what doesn’t. Even after two years, these are flourishing. Of course, it requires watering and maintenance by our staff,” a horticulture department official said.
The government and local authorities claim that during plantation drives the focus is on trees which flourish in the city.
“We have seeds of about 40 species in our nurseries. These are actually growing and flourishing in the city. The seeds, too, are collected from Delhi,” a forest official said.
According to him, the type of saplings being planted depends largely on the soil type of a particular area. In areas near the Yamuna, trees such as jamun and arjun are planted. However, for rocky areas saplings of salai, dhau, doodhi and dhak are better options.
Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi, says rather than ornamental, fancy trees, the focus should be on “happy trees”.
“You have to think ecologically when you plant. From Babar’s garden in Kabul, Italian Cyprus was brought to Delhi. They are miserable here and look pathetic. I like magnolia, so I plant it! It comes from South Carolina, a cold climate. Snow in winter. It will flower but it won’t be happy here. If you want to bring a pet to Delhi, will you bring a polar bear!” he said.
Experts believe that the ambitious pursuit to show impressive numbers in plantation has diluted the quality of plantation drives in terms of maintenance of sapling and selection of ecologically beneficial varieties.
“We must plant fewer and right varieties — especially native ones. It is crucial we raise a large number of trees and make species such as neem, jamun and pilkhand among others, available for plantation. An audit is definitely welcome but if too many agencies are involved it’s difficult to verify as in case of tree census,” said Padmavati Dwivedi of Compassionate Living a NGO working on the city’s environment.