‘Govt must follow ignored rules, make Delhi greener’

Delhi takes great pride in its annual greening drive, but environmentalists say very little is being done to ensure that the trees actually survive. A recent meeting convened by the NGO Green Circle of Delhi, and attended by officials from the Forest department and the city's civic bodies, has brought to light the fact that a series of guidelines for the afforestation of urban areas issued by the Union Ministry for Urban Development in 2000 are currently not being followed in Delhi.

According to Green Circle's founding president Suhas Borker, a few of the junior officers were not even aware that such guidelines existed. "There were 23 guidelines pushed through 11 years ago, when the Urban Development Ministry brought all the government agencies and NGOs together to agree on a set of rules. But now they are being ignored completely."

The guidelines specified in 2000 clearly state that an area of 6x6 inches is to be left uncemented around trees to let them grow. They also specify that digging near trees is to be avoided, and tiling should be done only on pavements with heavy pedestrain traffic since the roots of these trees cannot survive heavy concretisation. Borker said none of these rules are being followed today, and this is primarily due to the lack of knowledge and sensitisation toward greening.

"We will be sending a list of recommendations to the Chief Secretary of Delhi, who has already expressed his support. In addition, we are also planning to create a space in the India International Centre, where we can inform people about these guidelines and provide proper sensitisation to junior-level officers."

The recommendations will also include concerns raised on the method of tree planting, and plans for the future. Made by Professor C R Babu of the Delhi University, they maintain that the chief concern is lack of land.

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