Delhi’s green cover is diminishing at an alarming rate due to widespread felling of trees in the name of infrastructure projects. No sincere afforestation drive has been made to compensate for the loss of trees.
According to official figures, Delhi’s green cover reduced from around 34% in 2006 to less than 10% this year. The city has seen widespread felling of trees in the name of infrastructure projects and regulation pruning. According to the Forest Department, over one lakh trees were cut in the capital to make way for infrastructure projects.
Based on the records of the Forest Department, the Public Works Department (PWD) was responsible for cutting down over 48,000 trees and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for over 52,000 trees.
Tarun Johri, Conservator of Forests, Delhi, said: “Even common people have started misusing official permissions to prune trees and are cutting them down. The department permits the pruning of trees that pose a threat to life and safety. The permissions are usually sought by RWAs.”
According to him, the trees are identified by the tree officer and the pruning or in rare cases felling orders are sent to the MCD and the applicant. However, private contractors of the municipal corporations are tasked with carrying out the pruning. In most cases, they brutally cut down the tree to a log which is usually at the behest of local residents, he said.
“The department grants permission to RWAs for pruning trees, which is to be overseen by the horticulture officer of the municipal department. The material produced from the pruning is also transported by municipal officials in the transport arranged by the municipality,” Johri added.
Delhi’s Minister of Environment and Forest, Imran Hussein expressed concern regarding the matter and pointed out that re-plantation was not being carried out properly. “It is essential to plant more trees if Delhi’s green cover is to be increased. Re-plantation has not been systematic or sufficient. The government has decided to conduct a tree census with the help of an independent third-party. After the census report, we will devise a strategy to restore Delhi’s environment back to where it should be,” Hussein said. “A review meeting for the plantation drive status and tree census will be held this month,” he added. As per rules, pruning is only allowed for a maximum of three-four branches per tree. The branches must be up to a maximum girth of 30 cm. Any branch having a higher circumference needs special permission to be cut down. Sudip Das, who runs a transport company in Delhi, said: “We transport the wood for the MCD. In nine out of 10 cases, the MCD asks us to dispose of the wood ourselves and we sell it, usually to crematoriums. The pruning is rarely carried out as per guidelines, as we often transport whole logs in the name of pruned branches.”