Your city has less than 1 tree per person
The trees scattered along the avenues have declined 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
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 personAnd 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 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.”
“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.
“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.”