NEW DELHI: The Delhi Government has set an ambitious goal to increase the green cover of the city from 22 per cent to 25 per cent over the next three years. According to the latest India State of Forest Report (ISFR) published in 2019, Delhi ‘s green cover, including forest and tree cover, is currently 324 square kilometers (sq km) or 21.9 per cent of the total area. In 2017, it stood at 305.4 sq km, or 20.6 per cent.
Ishwar Singh, Principal Conservator of Forests said that according to our assessment, the green cover of Delhi could be increased to 25 per cent of its 1,484 sq km total area. This means 45 sq km of land for afforestation is available different departments in Delhi. This is the maximum green cover that can be achieved in the city. Then there will work on a five-year plan to improve the quality of our forest cover, which will enhance its carbon sink capacity, “he said.
The objective of the National Forest Policy is to ensure that at least one third of India’s total geographical area under green cover. Green cover is expected to be at least 66 per cent of the total area in hilly areas and 20 per cent in the plains. If there is availability of land, this objective can be achieved in the next three years, Singh said.
A request for the creation of “forest land bank” has already been made by the Forest Department to the Delhi Development Authority and the development commissioner, which can be utilized in the future for compensatory plantation by various departments and agencies. The establishment of a land bank would simplify compensatory planting processes and prevent projects delays, Singh said. Every time a project comes up, there will be no need to identify a new piece of land for compensatory afforestation,” he said, adding most of the land needed is available on Yamuna floodplains.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PPCF) said that no development activity can be undertaken on the floodplains. It is the most suitable area for afforestation activities. However, environmentalists opposed the use of Yamuna floodplains for afforestation purposes, arguing that any compensatory afforestation could lead to an “avoidable alteration in the natural functions of the floodplains.” On this, Singh said that on the extended part of the floodplains plantation exercises will be carried out, where the river often does not reach. He added that trees won’t be planted immediately along the river as it will change its flow. There will be enough area for the river left to swell during monsoon. Even if the flood water reaches the trees, it will only for a few days, which will not cause any harm.