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Delhi's forest and tree cover increases

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New Delhi, Feb 23 (PTI) Delhi's forest cover increased in 2017, but 'very dense forest cover' and 'medium dense forest cover' declined over the past two years, according to the Economic Survey of Delhi 2018-19. South Delhi district has the highest forest cover of 83.35 sq. km, and the lowest forest cover is in East Delhi of 3.70 sq Km. The total forest and tree cover area in Delhi increased to 305.41 sq km in 2017 from 299.77 sq km in 2015, the survey said. Delhi's green cover has increased from around 20.2 per cent of the total area during 2015 to 20.6 per cent during 2017. Delhi has the second-highest tree cover as a percentage of the total geographical area among states, the survey said. The tree cover also includes sparse vegetation along roads and small-scale plantations. The growth of forests and tree cover has particularly been "monumental" post 1999, the survey said. Of the total 305.41 sq km of forest area in Delhi, nearly 279 sq km has been added during the period between 1997 and 2017. The growth of forest and tree cover area of Delhi increased from 22 sq km in 1993 to 305.41 sq km in 2017. According to the survey, the percentage of forest and tree cover area to the total area of Delhi has increased manifold from a mere level of 1.48 per cent in 1993 to 20.59 per cent in 2017. Delhi's forest cover has increased by 0.25 per cent or 3.64 sq km compared to the assessments conducted in 2015, according to the State of the Forest report 2017. The State Forest Report 2017 revealed that both 'very dense forest cover' and 'medium dense forest cover' have declined over the past two years, the survey said. The very dense forest cover has declined from 6.94 sq km in 2015 to 6.72 sq km in 2017, and the medium dense forest cover has dropped from 57.1 sq km to 56.2 sq km at the same time. Very dense forest cover has more than 70 per cent canopy, medium dense forest cover has a canopy of 40 per cent to 70 per cent the report said. "These are the actual carbon sinks. Losing out such dense forests is not a good sign as it reduces a city's capacity to sequester carbon," the survey said. It is the open forests with a canopy cover of 10 per cent to 40 per cent which has increased from 124 sq km to 129 sq km in Delhi, leading to an overall increase in forest cover. Out of the total geographical area of Delhi, a very dense forest is spread over 0.45 per cent, a moderately dense forest is spread over 3.79 per cent, an open forest is spread over 8.73 per cent and scrub is spread over 0.05 per cent. The Delhi government has introduced an online solution e-forest for tree felling permission to user agency and individuals with the provision of e-payment gateway. "This will facilitate time bound permission of tree felling by the Forest Department in a transparent manner," the survey said. A massive tree plantation drive was conducted on September 8 last year involving 19 greening agencies, eco-clubs and resident welfare associations for plantation of five lakh tree saplings. An annual target for plantation of 17,82,120 tree saplings and 10,20,500 shrubs has been allotted for the year 2018-19, the survey said. Against this target, till December 2018, the achievement is 13,94,849 tree saplings and 9,23,900 shrubs. City forests at Mitraon, Nasirpur, Gahri Mandu, Taj Enclave, Hauz Rani were improved to increase the awareness levels among local residents as large numbers of people residing in the areas go to these forests for recreation, the survey said. Eco-restoration of habitat through Eco-Task Force in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary has been done by carrying out plantation of 2.5 lakh saplings and low-cost engineering structures to improve the soil moisture regime, the survey said. PTI SLB AMP SMN

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