Delhi: Flora, forests

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Suitable and unsuitable species

Jasjeev Gandhiok, When you can’t see the wood for the trees, April 13, 2019: The Times of India

Species that are suitable and unsuitable for growing in Delhi.
From: Jasjeev Gandhiok, When you can’t see the wood for the trees, April 13, 2019: The Times of India

Shortsighted Approach To Forest Revival May Only Hurt

Dera Mandi in south Delhi occupies a unique landscape with its 600 acres of alluvial soil in the ravines where the Yamuna flowed centuries ago before changing its course. The ravines are home to some of the rarest plant and tree species found in the National Capital Region. Work to fence off the area and revive it has begun, but is the forest department, as the activists claim, doing more damage than good there?

There is, for instance, the improper removal of the invasive vilayati kikar( Prosopis juliflora). The roots have been left in the ground and will certainly grow back. Experts also pointed out that the replacement species — jungle jalebi, bakain, shisham and kadamb, among others — are not suited to the area and will only deteriorate the ecology. To make things worse, heavy machinery is being used to flatten the terrain, as TOI saw during its visit to the forest on Friday.

Ecologist Vijay Dhasmana, familiar with the area for over a decade now, said the change has been drastic. “The deep pits show the result of using excavating machines to flatten the terrain. And while the vilayati kikar has started growing already, the native species were uprooted, destroying a natural three-tier forest level,” Dhasmana said, surveying the semi-barren landscape.

The ecologist described the intention of the forest department and the ecotask force as “good” and cited the fencing put up to prevent grazing and the creation of a fully functional water body. But, he added, poor “know-how” about species appropriate to the area’s soil type could only degrade it.

“The cleared patches had native species like hingot, gangeti and bistendu growing there naturally. But species that are not conducive for forest growth have replaced them,” Dhasmana said. “Also, the distance between the pits dug for the trees is not adequate for them to grow properly.” The forest can be restored if a better selection of species is made, he suggested.

When TOI wandered in the area, heavy machinery could be seen at work and the sections earlier dense with native grasses, shrubs, midlevel trees and a top canopy all bore a barren look. “While digging there, grasses native to the area were removed and terrains with rare shrubs and plants have been flattened,” said Pradip Krishen, environmentalist and author of Trees of Delhi. He adding that when the eco-task force was asked about this indiscriminate act, the workers replied that they were simply planting what the forest department had provided them.

The tree expert said Dera Mandi was home to 14 plant species unique to this region in NCR. “This shows the importance of the place, but instead of preserving it machines are trampling what is growing naturally,” rued Krishen.

When contacted, the forest officials said the plans were to turn the area into a city forest once the current work was carried out. Asked what tree and plant species were being planted and why the heavy excavators were being used, the officials insisted that only ‘smaller’ invasive plants had been removed and species native to Delhi had been planted.

“Species like jungle jalebi have become native to Delhi and have evolved over time,” claimed a forest official. “You can find them across the Aravalis now and we have accordingly planted such trees.”

2015-19: new green hotspots

May 17, 2019: The Times of India

2015-18: trees planted in Delhi
From: May 17, 2019: The Times of India

Hope for cleaner future: How new green hotspots are helping Delhi breathe easier


New Delhi:

With Delhi regularly featuring among the top 10 polluted cities in the world, the need for creating green hotspots in the capital has become even more important over the last decade.

To contribute towards this cause by adding to the green patches of the Ridge and the areas along the six biodiversity parks, TOI had launched the Hero-TOI Green Drive in 2015 with Hero MotoCorp and got planted lakhs of saplings at the biodiversity parks under Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

More than 1 lakh saplings were planted in 2015 at the Tilpath Valley park, 70,000 at Tughlaqabad, Neela Hauz and Tilpath Valley in 2016, and 2 lakhs in 2017 across Delhi, Indore and Chandigarh. The drive itself has been growing steadily each year, with five lakh saplings planted across Delhi, Indore, Ahmedabad and Chennai in 2018. The drive is already reaping rewards with the saplings planted in 2015 reaching as high as 20 feet, according to R Jayakumar, scientist incharge at Tilpath Valley. “We had a barren landscape at the beginning and some parts were being used to play cricket by locals,” said Jayakumar.

After fencing the park and carrying out the plantation, intense care was provided, leading to a survival rate of around 95%, he added. “Nilgais were a major threat, which has also been dealt with through fencing,” said Jayakumar.

The park has now seen a tremendous improvement in its fauna. “We took part in butterfly counts as well as bird counts and the numbers have been steadily increasing over the years. The average growth of the species planted is around 15 feet,” said Jayakumar. In 2016, TOI, along with Hero MotoCorp and DDA, planted 30,000 saplings at the new Tughlaqabad biodiversity park, 20,000 at Tilpath Valley and 10,000 at Neela Hauz. The 2017 target was 2 lakh saplings, including 40,000 species at Tughlaqabad. Yasser Arafat, the in-charge at Neela Hauz, said not only the waterbody had been revived but the plantations also had a success rate of over 90% with an average height of 8 feet. “Some species grow faster, while others are likely to shoot up further during this monsoon. When we began, the patches along the waterbody were barren. That has changed now, making the area ideal for the birds to nest,” said Arafat.

According to Vivek Chaudhary, the scientist-incharge at Tughlaqabad, while nilgais and monkeys remain a threat in the area, the park authorities have made ‘natural’ tree guards from broken twigs to protect the growing saplings. “If they are up to a certain height, the nilgais cannot reach the growing saplings. If there is no protection, animals may graze or trample the plant,” said Chaudhary, putting the survival rate at over 75%.

Vijay Sethi, Hero Moto-Corp’s head of CSR, CIO and chief HR officer, said the company would continue to expand the drive. “As part of the CSR vision of the company, we want to make it a greener, safer and equitable world — greener for environment, safer for road safety and equitable for the society.”

The campaign was started in Delhi as, Sethi pointed out, it is one of the world’s most polluted cities. “But we have slowly moved to other cities as well. The plan is to ensure a survival rate of over 90% and make the entire country greener.” According to professor C R Babu, professor emeritus, DU and head of Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE), the species for all locations have been chosen according to the soil type and whether they are native to it. “We have seen more birds and wildlife coming to these locations in the last four years and the habitats are beginning to thrive,” said Babu. The saplings planted over the last two years are starting to mature and give back to the environment, he added.

Faiyaz Khudsar, scientistin-charge at Yamuna Biodiversity Park, also highlighted how these sites, once trees are fully grown and a three-canopy forest is developed, would act as carbon sequestration (segregation) points, along with trapping dust. “This will help regulate the temperatures as well,” said Khudsar.

Demarcation of forest areas

The Ridge

Jasjeev Gandhiok, Forest or not? No one knows the status in 10 out of 14 villages in southern ridge, February 15, 2018: The Times of India

While the National Green Tribunal has given a month’s time for the southern ridge to be demarcated completely, sources said the process to demarcate all fourteen villages may be completed only by the end of this year.

The revenue department began work on demarcating the southern ridge in August last year and only four villages — Rajokri, Ayanagar, Jaunapur and Ghitorni — have been handed over so far. The remaining 10 villages are currently being mapped and each village is likely to take close to a month to complete.

In 1996, Supreme Court had ordered protection of the Delhi ridge from encroachment. However till date, it has not been notified officially. While in 2014, the forest department had carried out its own survey and made digitised maps of the ridge, the revenue department had argued that these maps did not tally with their maps — thus making it difficult to identify encroachments. Forest officials say the demarcation will now ensure the ridge does not face any more encroachments in the future.

“Several cases in the NGT were stuck earlier as it was difficult to tell which parts had been encroached as we had no clear map. A house could be in the ridge according to one map or outside according to an older map. Thus, it was impossible to remove encroachments. Once this process is complete, we can fence these areas and drive out encroachers,” said a senior forest department official.

Sources said for the demarcated villages, fencing work is likely to begin soon following which they will be notified. According to the 1996 notification of the Delhi government, the 14 villages that fall under the southern ridge include Neb Sarai, Chhatarpur, Maidan Garhi, Dera Mandi, Asola, Pul Prahladpur, Devli, Rangpuri, Aya Nagar, Rajokri, Bhati, Ghitorni, Saidulajab and Jaunapur.

Teams from the forest and revenue department are mapping each village using a total station method, which tags the latitude and longitude, allowing officials to fence the area later. The department can then determine and remove any encroachments falling under it, a forest official added.

Forest cover


2001-2013: Delhi's forest area, Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

See graphic, 2001-2013: Delhi's forest area


Jayashree Nandi, Your city has less than 1 tree per person, June 29, 2018: The Times of India

See graphics:

2009- 2017:
Tree cover in Delhi
Open forests in Delhi

2009- 2017:
Tree cover in Delhi
Forest cover in Delhi
Open forests in Delhi.
2008-17: saplings planted in Delhi.

2009- 2017:
Tree cover in Delhi
Open forests in Delhi
From: Dipak Dash, June 29, 2018: The Times of India
2009- 2017:
Tree cover in Delhi
Forest cover in Delhi
Open forests in Delhi.
2008-17: saplings planted in Delhi
From: Jayashree Nandi, Your city has less than 1 tree per person, June 29, 2018: The Times of India

BREATHING UNEASY: Tree Cover Steadily Down In Last 10 Yrs

Trees in Delhi — those along avenues, in colonies and at scattered lots — have been on a decline since 2005. The protests against tree felling for the redevelopment of seven south Delhi colonies may reflect the prevailing popular anxiety, but tree cover in the city went down from 123 sq km in 2009 to 111 sq km in 2015, before rising to 113 sq km in 2017, according to the Forest Survey of India’s State of Forest Reports.

The capital’s per capita tree cover stands at an abysmal 0.002 hectare. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) puts Delhi’s per capita tree availability at 0.3, or less than one tree per person. And while forest and tree covers cannot be directly compared, Russia’s per capita forest cover of 5.58 ha, Brazil’s 2.37 ha and United States’ 0.96 ha are suggestive of these cities being in a better situation. Forest cover in Delhi has gone up marginally since 2005.

FSI reports are based on data from two years prior to their publication. These, therefore, suggest that the loss in the city’s tree cover has taken place mainly in the 2005-15 decade. Tree cover reported in 2004 was even lower at 98 sq km.

The tree cover data takes tree density in cities and rural areas that are outside the protected forests. While forest cover is based on canopy density above 10% in an area of one hectare or more, tree cover considers canopy density in areas below that size. “Tree cover should be increasing in cities. It can be dynamic because these are not protected forests,” explained Prakash Lakhchaura of FSI. “There can be some change due to infrastructure projects, but the overall trend should be of a rise in tree cover.”

The declining tree cover means Delhiites are being exposed to dust and severe air pollution more than earlier. “Trees are excellent trappers of dust and carbon dioxide. Trees and vegetation are also crucial to minimise the impact of heat island effect, which not only increases local temperature but also causes a rise in emission of secondary pollutants like ozone,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment. For this reason, compensatory plantations created on the outskirts may not benefit city residents much.

The FSI data indicates an increase in open forests since 2005, but a gradual and marginal decline in very dense forest cover. Experts opined this could be attributed to the government’s compensatory afforestation projects. Interestingly, Delhi government claimed on Thursday that 176 lakh saplings have been planted in the capital 2009 onwards and the survival rate has been 65%.

Between 2018 and 2022, the environment department aims to plant one crore saplings to increase the green cover by 65 sq km. In doing this, experts advised considering the kind of species being planted. Efficiency of vegetation in assimilating pollution is determined by the shape and thickness of leaves. Native species are effective dust trappers.

“I have even seen the forest department planting champa, pongamia, royal palm and bougainvillea. These are not even trees. You need canopied trees to fight pollution,” said C R Babu, professor emeritus, Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems. “Yes, the forest department has created a city forest and some wooded lots, but it should focus on native species.”

2014-15: A Slight increase

The Times of India, Dec 05 2015

Slight increase in capital's forest cover  The state of forest report 2015 shows that Delhi's cover has improved, but marginally . In terms of area, the increase is of about 9 sq km, making the total forest area about 20.29%. In the very dense forest category , there is an improvement of about 0.18% but there is a loss of about 0.71% in scrub forest which may be reflecting loss from Delhi Ridge.In the moderately dense fo rest category , there is an improvement of about 7.7% compared to the 2013, said the Survey of India report. There is also a reduction of about 8.5% in non-forest areas.

Forest department officials claimed it was a result of their sustained efforts. “Despite criticism and being labelled as a hindrance to development projects, we have proved our mettle,“ said an official. Experts, however, raised concerns about the decline in scrub cover.

==Forests in the NCR, district-wise, 2015==

Protected forests in the NCR, district-wise, 2015; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, December 12, 2015

See graphic, Protected forests in the NCR, district-wise, 2015

2017: cover is up 0.3% since 2015

Delhi’s forest cover is up 0.3% since 2015 but it’s nothing to cheer about, February 13, 2018: The Times of India

Tree cover as % of total area, in 2017, in India as a whole and in the top ten states
From: Delhi’s forest cover is up 0.3% since 2015 but it’s nothing to cheer about, February 13, 2018: The Times of India

Dense Forests Have Recorded A Decline; Increase Only In Open, Scrub Forest Categories

Delhi’s forest cover has increased by 0.3%, or 3.6 sq km, compared to the assessments conducted in 2015, according to the State of the Forest Report 2017, which was released on Monday. But there is little to cheer about. The increase is only in the open and scrub forest categories whereas both very dense and moderately dense forests have recorded a decline.

The assessment by the Forest Survey of India emphasises Delhi is losing its dense, bio-diverse forests over the years even as plantations account for a minor improvement in the total forest cover.

As far as tree cover is concerned — sparse vegetation along roads or small-scale plantations — Delhi has the second-highest tree cover as a percentage of the total geographical area among states (see graphic). In this respect, Goa tops the chart. 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. According to the report, the increase of 3.6 sq km observed in Delhi can be attributed to plantation activities and conservation whereas decrease in some areas could be because of developmental activities.

A senior forest official told TOI that the focus was on open areas this time around, instead of very dense forest (VDF) and moderately dense forest (MDF), which both came down slightly. “The overall increase in Delhi’s green cover is a good sign. Delhi’s green cover has increased from around 20.2% last time around to 20.6% this time. The fall in VDF and MDF areas could be due to development work, especially in the form of building roads, but the drop is not that significant,” the official said.

There is a 4.8 sq km increase in open forests and 0.7sq km in scrub forests.

There is another issue with FSI’s assessment of forest cover. According to forestry experts, the methodology for accounting forest cover doesn't differentiate between tree cover on agricultural land, plantations, urban parks and natural forests. The Forest Survey Of India defines forest cover to

be “all land more than one hectares in area, with tree canopy density of more than 10%, irrespective of ownership and legal status”. This definition could well mean that man-made forests are also counted as forests. In fact, the report clarifies that “occurrence of weeds like lantana in forest areas and agricultural crops like sugar cane, cotton, etc, adjacent to forest areas causes mixing of spectral signatures and often makes precise forest cover delineation difficult”.

The reduction in very dense and moderately dense forests in Delhi is all the more worrying because air pollution levels are extremely high in the capital — and getting worse. The carbon sequestration and pollution combating capacity of open forests is half or a third of that of dense, good quality forests, according to an earlier estimate by professor NH Ravindranath, a forestry expert from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Green cover

Decline: 1986-2015

The Times of India, Aug 30 2015

Overall decline in green cover since 1986: Study 

A recent study on the city's green cover shows a disturbing trend. Delhi's vegetation has seen an overall decline since 1986.The green cover is also increasingly becoming fragmented, the study reveals.The highest fragmentation is being seen on the periphery where afforestation work is being conducted to compensate for the loss of trees to urban development projects. However, it is also only on the periphery that the green cover is increasing while the same is on the wane in the core and transitional areas.

The study by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Manipal Academy of Higher Education and Azim Premji University , highlights that though vegetation is increasing on the periphery, rapid urbanization and expanding real estate business could put this in danger. “Farm lands, wetlands, open spaces and trees on the periphery have been rapidly converted into urban built-up areas. With this, the vegetated landscape of Delhi is becoming increasingly fragmented like Shenzen, Daqing and Mumbai“ the study states.

For instance, the green cover in Delhi's core area in 1986 was about 64.68%, but it reduced to about 43.98% in 2010. Vegetation in the transitional area was 25.32% which marginally reduced to 22.43% but the peripheral green cover increased from 13.22% in 1986 to 16.52% in 2010.

“My study shows that there is an overall decline in the green cover in the past 25 years and the vegetated landscape is increasingly becoming fragmented. But when we look at different zones, we find that the core has maximum vegetation but it is also declining since 1986. The transitional zone has lesser proportion of vegetation than the core area. Though there has been a slight increase in the green cover in this zone from 1986 to 1999, the period between 2000 and 2010 saw a steady decline,“ said Somajita Paul, co-author of the study , which was conducted using satellite images for all these years.

2011-21: an increase

Jasjeev Gandhiok , June 6, 2021: The Times of India

City forests in Delhi, 2021
From: Jasjeev Gandhiok , June 6, 2021: The Times of India

The capital has seen a steady growth of green cover in the last decade, evolving to the present 21.9% of Delhi’s 1,484 sq km. This has not been achieved simply by planting more trees, but also by restoring areas that were lying bare, some even used as waste dumps. With the theme of World Environment Day on Saturday being ecosystem restoration, the city forests have proved important ecological and green hotspots and provided an environmental balance amid the urban sprawl.

In the past few years alone, city forests have emerged at Mitraon, Nasirpur, Alipur, Taj Enclave, Hauz Rani and Garhi Mandu. Saplings were planted on World Environment Day in 2016 at Garhi Mandu that have seen a revival of flora and fauna. Taj Enclave near Geeta Colony, spread over 1.75 hectares, was a garbage dump before the waste was cleared and native species planted there.

While natural forests stand in several locations of the city, the urban forests have been developed in such a manner that they allow habitat restoration while coexisting with recreational activities. To achieve this, bridges and walkways have been created and signages put up identify trees and medicinal herbs. “These allow people to learn about the native trees and plants,” said a forest officer. “We have also grown medicinal plants, even cacti in some patches. In some city forests, waterbodies have been created to attract birds and wildlife.”

While a new city forest at Chhatarpur is in the planning stage, similar projects are under development by Delhi government’s forest and wildlife department in Ayanagar, Jaunapur and ITO. An official said, “We have created sections where insect houses are present. These indicate how insects play a key role in the ecosystem. The aim is to provide knowledge to local people, especially children, while providing green spaces.”

Environmentalist professor C R Babu explained that for any ecosystem to thrive, a threetier trophic level was important. “Native plant species can grow in the urban green hotspots and lure back insects, birds and other fauna. The green areas also act as a carbon sink, trap dust and regulate temperature naturally,” said Babu.

2016-19:  Green cover up in central, south Delhi, down in west

Jasjeev Gandhiok, Dec 13, 2019 Times of India

2016-19:  Delhi’s green went up in central, south Delhi, down in west
From: Jasjeev Gandhiok, Dec 13, 2019 Times of India

Tree-plantation drives, citizens’ efforts and the National Green Tribunal’s 2015 order to reclaim the southern ridge from encroachments seem to be paying off. Satellite data shows there has been a discernible increase in green cover in south and central Delhi over the last three years.

Among assembly constituencies, Greater Kailash showed the maximum rise with an increase of 15.2 in the greenery index, followed by New Delhi (14.7) and Malviya Nagar (14.7). Kalkaji gained 14.3 while R K Puram saw an increase of 13.3.

However, industrial spots and those where built-up area has risen — mainly in west, southwest and north — lost green cover during this period. Topping the list, Najafgarh showed a drop in green index of -11.2, followed by Matiala (-8.5), Narela (-6.8), Bawana (-6.8) and Mundka (-4.8).

The analysis was done by using satellite data (beyond nightlight monitoring) from European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite, which releases high-resolution images every five days.

BRIDGE THE GAP: How city is reclaiming its green lungs

Long-term data analysis of the images revealed the change in built-up area (an indicator of urbanisation) and the change in green cover around NCR. Data showed while south Delhi has been reclaiming its greenery over the last three years, industrialising parts of south Haryana have been losing green cover.

In terms of losing green cover, Haryana has fared the worst overall with areas south of Faridabad — particularly around Palwal — seeing the highest increase in built-up area. Hodal (-34.2), Palwal (-30.6) and Hathin (-29.8) in Faridabad have seen the highest drop in green cover in Delhi NCR, followed by Punahana (-27.8) and Pataudi (-24.8), both of which fall in Gurgaon.

Badhkal in Faridabad fared the best in Delhi-NCR, recording an increase in green cover of 9.83 in the index since 2016, the data showed.

Delhi forest department officials said the increase in green cover could be due to the two-pronged approach they have been adopting, with focus on carrying out plantation as well removing encroachments which fall in the ridge. Following a 2015 NGT order to demarcate the southern ridge, the forest department has gradually been reclaiming ridge area from encroachments. It said 35 hectares has been reclaimed in the last six months.

However, another 370 hectares out of the 6,200 hectares under the southern ridge is yet to be reclaimed.

“We’ll require considerable manpower as well as the special task force and police personnel to reclaim area where multi-storeyed buildings have come up. In some locations, entire colonies exist and we have already written to the DDA vice-chairman who heads this task force,” said a forest official.

An eco-task force, which assists the Delhi forest department in protecting the ridge is part of the patrolling team. Forest officials said in addition to this, greening drives have been extremely successful. While on an average, close to 20 lakh saplings are being planted by Delhi’s greening agencies which include the three corporations, DDA, NDMC, BSES, DMRC and PWD, among others, Delhi has a target of planting 23 lakh saplings this year. In addition, 4.25 lakh free saplings were announced to be distributed free of cost this year (2019-20).

Delhi has gradually been gaining green cover according to the India State of Forests Report (ISFR). In 2013, Delhi’s green cover was 20.1%, increasing to 20.2% in 2015 and 20.6% in 2017, according to the latest ISFR (2017).

The report, however, had also pointed out that Delhi was losing out on “very dense forests” and “moderately dense forests”, two of the three categories used to describe forest cover. Very dense forests declined from 6.94sq km in 2015 to 6.72sq km in 2017. Moderately dense forests fell from 57.15sq km in 2015 to 56.24sq km in 2017. According to the report, only ‘open forests’ have seen a rise, going from 124.68square km in 2015 to 129.45square km.

Greenery, region-wise, 2018

July 30, 2018: The Times of India

Almost 50% of Lutyens’ zone and New Delhi is covered by greenery, while 32% of south Delhi has trees. On the other hand, east Delhi has only 5.13% green cover, west 5.29% and northwest 3.87%.

Flora, fauna native to Delhi/ NCR

Native species

Species native to Delhi/NCR; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 6, 2015

See graphic:

Species native to Delhi/NCR

Native trees

Brief list of selected native trees in Delhi; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

See graphic:

Brief list of selected native trees in Delhi

The Delhi Tree Authority

Role, functions

Jasjeev Gandhiok, Root of the problem: No one knows Delhi has a tree authority, August 7, 2018: The Times of India

The Delhi Tree Authority held just one meeting between 2013 and 2017, a CAG report has revealed. Little surprise then that not many are even aware about the existence of such a statutory body, which was set up in 2007 and vested with powers under the Delhi Tree Preservation Act, 1994.

These powers include giving permission to cut trees as also keeping a tree count, removing concretisation around trees and maintaining nurseries. If the rule book were to be followed, the body should have met every three months. The most recent meeting came in early 2018 — following one in July 2013, according to the CAG report. This, at a time when the redevelopment of seven south Delhi colonies has created a furore over a proposal to fell more than 16,000 trees.

“Against the mandated 12 meetings, only one was held during 2014-17, the period covered by the audit. (The) absence of regular meetings indicates lack of seriousness in its approach towards preservation of trees and afforestation,” the report stated. The report also found “huge disparities” in afforestation data provided by the forest department and other greening agencies. Between 2014 and 2017, the government could only plant 28.1 lakh trees against a target of 36.6 lakh, CAG said.

Usha Srinivasan, a former expert member of the tree authority, said the body could achieve a lot of success if it resumed functioning. Tree numbering in Delhi first began due to its efforts, she said, adding, however, that expert involvement in the authority became limited around 2012.

“The role of the tree authority started reducing around the 2010 Commonwealth Games and, by 2013, expert members were not being even called. The body has a lot of power, but it needs to be allowed to function. We could suggest changes to redevelopment projects and also implement any action required to preserve trees, including getting them replanted and de-concretised,” Srinivasan said.

Forest officials claimed they were “working hard” on reviving the body and even held a meeting in early 2018. “The idea is to revive its functioning and eventually to bring it back to what it used to be. The body could not function due to multiple factors, but it can take important decisions, if revived,” a senior forest official said.

NBCC, in its submission to the HC, had said it had deposited nearly Rs 8 crore with the Delhi Tree Authority to carry out the redevelopment projects in south Delhi. Forest officials, however, said that if the tree authority was functioning, such projects would be asked to redraw plans in the future.

Padmavati Dwivedi, a tree activist, said the tree authority could pay a major role in saving trees. “For a polluted city like Delhi, utilising these powers is essential and we haven’t been doing that for years now. Instead, we are seeing one project after another where trees are being chopped in large numbers,” Dwivedi said.


Definition of ‘tree’

Dipak Dash, July 23, 2018: The Times of India

What is a tree? This has become the hot subject of debate in government circles since the huge controversy of largescale felling of trees broke out in Delhi for redevelopment of seven residential colonies.

While Forest Survey of India (FSI) defines any woody plant with a height of 4.5 feet and a diameter of 10 centimetres as a ‘tree’, the Delhi Tree Act claims the definition for woody plants that are more than one feet tall and and with a diameter of five centimetres.

Sources said while the FSI norm of identifying a tree is followed by several states, there are others including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and urban areas of Maharashtra which have their own norms. For example, as per the Maharashtra (Urban Area) Preservation of Tree Act, all perennial plants are treated as trees and in Rajasthan all plants including palms, bushwood and canes are treated as trees.

“The definition of tree differs from state to state. In Haryana, plants with 5 cm diameter are treated as trees. The original Indian Forest Act defined tree as a woody plant including palms, bamboos, skumps, brush-wood and canes. Bamboos were recently taken out of the list through an amendment in the law,” said a Haryana forest department official.

TOI tried talking to a couple of renowned experts to seek their views, but they refused to discuss the matter saying the definition of tree is a “controversial” issue. “There can’t be one-size-fits-all definition for trees as local conditions and requirement have been considered while specifying the norms,” a senior forest officer from Uttarakhand said. Some of the government officials said that the difference in the definition of trees has resulted in huge increase in the numbers of “trees” to be cut for infrastructure projects and hence there is a huge requirement of land to carry out compensatory plantation. The officials also said that as per the norms laid by the Delhi forest department, for each tree cut 10 trees needs to be planted whereas the forest ministry norms put this in the range of two to 10 trees for felling of each tree.

See also

Delhi: Dera Mandi forest

Delhi: Flora, forests

Delhi: The Ridge

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