Seventy-five per cent to 80 per cent of the saplings planted in Delhi between 2016 and 2019 have survived, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said on Friday citing a report from the Forest Research Institute (FRI). The government will also ask the Dehradun-based institute to conduct an audit of plantations undertaken in the last two years, he said.
"We had asked the FRI to conduct an audit of sapling plantation undertaken from 2016 to 2019. We received the report in January. According to it, 75-80 per cent of the saplings have survived," Rai said at a press conference. Around 62 lakh saplings were planted in Delhi during the plantation drives undertaken between 2016 and 2019. The survival rate stood at 80.21 per cent in the North division. In the West division, 78.5 per cent of the saplings survived in the Alipur range and 75.68 per cent in the Najafgarh range.
In the South division, the survival rate was 72 per cent in Mehrauli, 76 per cent in Asola Bhatti Phase I and 81.33 per cent in Phase 2. Rai said Delhi ranks first in the country in terms of per capita forest cover, ahead of Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata. He said Delhi's green cover has increased from 20 per cent of its geographical area in 2013 to 23.06 per cent in 2021.
The National Forest Policy aims at bringing a minimum one-third of India's total geographical area under green cover. The green cover should be at least 66 per cent of the total area in hilly regions and 20 per cent in the plains. Rai said Delhi has exceeded the target. "We have been successful in meeting our goal. In 2016-17, we set a goal of planting 10 lakh saplings, but we ended up planting 24 lakh. We planted 19 lakh saplings against the target of 10 lakh in 2017-18.
"We planted 19 lakh and 28 lakh saplings against the target of 10 lakh each in 2018-19 and 2019-20." So far in the financial year 2021-22, Delhi has planted 32 lakh saplings and shrubs, which is more than the target (31 lakh) set by the Centre. "In Delhi, not just the state government but all other agencies like DDA, MCD, Railways and DMRC, have collectively worked towards making Delhi greener," Rai said.
The government has also decided to conduct soil testing before annual plantation exercises to increase the sapling survival rate, he said. Officials said the city government is also seeking to conduct an audit of tree transplantation exercises undertaken in the capital so far. Based on the third-party audit conducted by the FRI, it was earlier reported that the survival rate of saplings planted in Delhi from 2016 to 2019 was between 50 per cent and 75 per cent.
A source said the Forest Department was "unhappy" with the findings and the FRI was asked to look into it again. Rai said it was a preliminary report and this is the final report. According to officials, a survival rate of 40-50 per cent is considered average, 50-70 per cent is good, 70-80 per cent is very good, and 80-90 per cent is considered excellent. Of the 18 greening agencies involved in the yearly plantation drives, the forest department and the Delhi Development Authority plant the maximum number of saplings and shrubs.
The plantation audit aims to ascertain which species of plants, trees and shrubs have the best survival rate in Delhi and which regions in the city are best suited for their growth. The Forest Department had earlier got an audit conducted by the Agricultural Finance Corporation for the plantation drive carried out between 2013 and 2015. Various government agencies planted 32 lakh saplings in the financial year 2020-21. The Forest Department planted around 5.5 lakh of these saplings.
With PTI Inputs