The Delhi government will allow felling of only 20% trees for infrastructure and development projects while the rest 80% will have to be transplanted, finance minister Manish Sisodia announced in his budget speech on Tuesday.
Terming it as a ‘tough but very important step’, Sisodia said Delhi would be the first state in the country to come up with such a ‘stringent rule’.
“The government has already implemented a scheme to plant 10 trees for cutting one. But now the government is planning to bring an important plan under which removal of only maximum 20% of the total trees required for the implementation of a project will be allowed. The remaining 80% trees will be made mandatory for transplant by modern technology,” Sisodia said in his budget speech.
Data available with the forest department shows that at least 1.12 lakh trees were felled between 2005 and February 2018 in Delhi — an average of 24 every day.
In June 2018, the Delhi government received flak from environmentalists and courts for giving permission to cut down more than 5,000 trees for the revamp of south Delhi neighbourhoods to house central government employees. At least 14,000 trees were proposed to be felled. The permission was revoked in the face of public outcry and a series of litigations.
The minister also said pollution levels had dropped by at least 20% over the past seven to eight years because of various efforts initiated by the government but it still remained a concern for every Delhi resident.
“Concentration of particulate matter in Delhi’s air has declined by 20%. The average PM10 volume in the air in 2011 was 277, which increased to 368 in 2012. Since then, it has been continuously rising, and in 2018 it has again reduced to 277. Similarly, the level of PM2.5 was 136 in 2011, which became 164 in 2012. It was registered at 128 in the year 2018,” Sisodia said, referring to data provided by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
Even though experts and activists welcomed the government’s proposal to give preference to transplanting trees instead of felling them, they questioned the efficacy of the method.
“At the outset, it seems to be a good proposition. But one needs to see if land is available for transplantation of such large number of matured trees and what has been the success rate of such transplantations in the past,” said Padmavati Dwivedi, an activist who conducted Delhi’s first tree census in a south Delhi neighbourhood.
Sisodia also said Delhi’s green area had increased by at least 1,100 hectares, compared to 2015, when the Aam Aadmi Party came to power.