Mail Today. Baishali Adak. November 11, 2018

While crop-burning and crackers are the ‘primary accused’, chopping of thousands of trees in 2 years is no less a crime.

The Delhi government, as well as the Centre, might be brainstorming (not too successfully though) on the city’s monstrous air pollution problem, but a real source of oxygen – healthy adult trees – has been systematically axed over the years bowing to infrastructural and real estate pressures.

Over 1.12 lakh trees were done away with in the Capital in the past 13 years. Broken down, that translates to almost 24 trees a day or one tree felled every hour.

During the same period, as per Delhi government data, 15,276 trees were removed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), 15,762 trees were sought to be felled by the Public Works Department (PWD) and another 2,786 were cut by Rites Ltd. for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor from Ambedkar Nagar to Moolchand in South Delhi.Ads by ZEDO

Over 20,000 trees have been felled or were proposed to be felled in just the past two years, with the NBCC project to build towers in seven government colonies coming under heavy firing from people in general and environmentalists in particular.

Dr Govind Singh, director Delhi Greens, said, “We don’t really realise the value of trees because they come for free. As per our assessment, a single healthy tree produces oxygen worth Rs 23.72 lakh per year or Rs. 3.55 crore in its average 50-year lifetime.”

He added: “We realise the value of this oxygen only when it comes in a cylinder at a hospital.”

“If you look at the entire NCR region as one geographical entity, there has been a massive slaughter of the tree-cover. In just the past few months, in Delhi, we have seen axing of trees for the National War Memorial at India Gate, along the Dhaula Kuan-IGI Airport stretch and at Sundar Nagar (on Mathura Road), besides NBCC,” recalled Vikrant Tongad, founder-member of NGO SAFE (Social Action for Forests and Environment).

“In Noida, trees were felled in Sector 91 to create a biodiversity park, over 6,000 trees are proposed to be cut for the Jewar Airport and few hundred at Gurugram’s Aravalli Biodiversity Park. While measures like stopping building construction activity and odd-even rationing of cars will provide only temporary relief, it is trees that will really save the day,” he added.

Experts have repeatedly said that the government’s environment and forest department and the municipal corporations’ horticulture wings must be strengthened to improve greenery in the city.

“These departments, for decades, have been treated as those of least importance. They are not funded well, suffer from critical staff shortage and hardly have any equipments,” said lawyer and environment activist Aditya Prasad.

Prasad also highlighted that the after the British built and designed Lutyens’ Delhi with tree-lined avenues of specific species like Neem, Jamun, Amaltas, etc, there has hardly been any concerted effort to maintain the green cover.

“I think the last time planned and scientific tree plantation was done was when RK Puram and the Ring Roads came up in the 1960s and 70s. Many trees like Arjun, Peepal and Alistonia were planted,” he said.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of US, in a study, stated that the average reduction of particulate matter near a tree was between 7% and 24%. In the present circumstances, that percentage of reduction could be a life-saver for the National Capital.

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