Experts say decreasing forest cover has been a major reason for rising air pollution in Delhi.

 

NEW DELHI: While Delhi is struggling with air pollution, the ever decreasing forest cover in the capital has raised serious concerns as it could make the situation worse for people in the coming days.

Every winter, Delhi witnesses severe depletion of its air quality that plunges between “poor” to “severe”. As a measure to tackle the deteriorating air quality, the Delhi government implements the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) which includes proactively rolling out stricter measures depending on the situation, discourage private vehicles on roads, stop use of diesel generators, close brick kilns and stone crushers and measures like introduction of the odd-even scheme for cars.

However, environment experts and activists believe that these temporary measures can help in curbing pollution only in the short term as these measures lack a comprehensive long-term action plan.

Anil Sood, an environment activist, told The Sunday Guardian that deforestation is one of the major reasons for increase in air pollution in Delhi. “Forest cover is measured in terms of canopy and tree cover. But tree cover in Delhi is depleting very drastically which in turn is affecting the environment. The government has no systematic plan for afforestation. Afforestation is the only solution to curb air pollution in Delhi.”

According to the Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017, Delhi’s forest cover has increased by 0.3% or 3.6 sq km in comparison to assessments conducted in 2015. The situation, however, isn’t as promising as both very dense and moderately dense forests have recorded a decline. As far as forest cover is concerned, Delhi has lost about 0.2 sq km of very dense forest and 0.9 sq km of moderately dense forest since 2015.

The increase in the forest cover is only in the open and scrub forest categories. The report attributes this increase to plantation activities and conservation, whereas the decrease is due to massive developmental activities in the city.

Vivek Chattopadhyay of the Centre for Science and Environment told The Sunday Guardian: “It is already proven that desertification has already expanded towards Delhi. Hence, there is a need for dense forest cover. The government must hire experts to increase the dense forest cover and reclaim areas which are affected due to deforestation.” He also added that afforestation can be an effective preventive measure to curb increasing air pollution and desertification in Delhi.

 

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