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‘Planting more trees cannot be an excuse to axe trees for widening roads’

The road widening project has resulted in the illegal felling of trees. The project threatens the green cover inside residential colonies.
Hindustan Times | By Darpan Singh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2013 02:41 AM IST

The road widening project has resulted in the illegal felling of trees. The project threatens the green cover inside residential colonies. Padmavati Dwivedi, leader of Delhi’s first tree census team, points out the flaws in the plan and suggests remedial measures. Excerpts from an interview.

Q: How do you view the loss of green cover in Vasant Kunj?

It is an irreversible loss. Even if there is compensatory plantation, it will take years for the people to get the benefit of the full-grown trees that have been done away without the forest department’s permission. There has to be an environment impact assessment before projects such as widening of roads are given the green signal. Also, a clear and committed compensatory plantation should be ensured near the affected area.

Q: The government has estimated that about 1,000 trees need to be felled for the project. Can this be compensated given the lax compensatory plantation we see in the Capital?
It can be compensated if the government shows will. However, the loss can be compensated only in terms of quantity and not quality. The quality of fresh clean air, which fully grown trees would have provided the people, cannot be compensated for years. Trees and groundwater recharge need earth. So urbanization has to go vertical and not horizontal. Leave the earth for trees and water recharge.

Q: South Delhi’s green cover has of late suffered much damage because of infrastructure projects.
It’s not only infrastructure projects. We must also count in the damage that is being caused by citizens and builders of apartment complexes in residential colonies as well. If you consider the entire stock, which is vanishing from colonies, the damage may be actually more internal.

Q: Where do we go from here?
We must do a city-wide tree census. Only then can you check the loss. For instance, if you say that green cover must always be maintained at a certain percentage, then we have to know where we stand in the first place. Also, it is needed to assess how much we are losing both in infra projects and inside colonies. The green pie is disappearing and no one knows how many pieces of the pie have been eaten or added as there is no record of the size of the pie in the first place.

Q: Does a densely-populated neighbourhood such as Vasant Kunj need such a wide road right through it, that too at the cost of massive green cover?
There are residents who want the road-widening to go ahead to rid of traffic jams.
But when you take permission for felling trees, your requirement is assessed and you’re allowed to remove only so much green cover.

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