The Delhi forest department has asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the development commissioner to identify a “land bank” in the city where compensatory plantation of trees can be done under various projects. The principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), Ishwar Singh, told The Indian Express that creation of a land bank would make the process of compensatory plantation simpler and quicker, as the DDA would not have to identify new land each time and companies or agencies could approach the forest department directly. Singh mentioned the idea to DDA officials and the development commissioner in a meeting recently.
“There are three conditions we have requested for this land bank — it should be free from litigation, free from encroachments and should be suitable for plantation, meaning that the soil should not be rocky or in an area which doesn’t promote growth of trees,” he said.
At present, agencies or companies undertaking development projects in the city approach the DDA, the land owning agency in Delhi, to seek land for carrying out compensatory plantations for trees felled in their projects.
If a “forest land bank” is identified, compensatory plantations could be done there until the area is covered and then a new land bank can be identified for further plantations, the PCCF said.
Meanwhile, officials said there are large chunks of land available in Delhi — 200 acres or above — but they are often either disputed or encroached upon.
They pointed to a recent case of a 700-acre land identified along the Yamuna riverbed near East Delhi’s Sonia Vihar, allocated for compensatory plantation to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
However, upon inspection earlier this year, officials found that the land was under encroachment. A DMRC spokesperson said, “A joint survey of the land was done. It was found unsuitable for compensatory plantation as cultivation was observed at the allocated land.”
Using the floodplains as a forest land bank also poses a challenge. Former IFS officer Manoj Misra stated that plantation on the floodplains would alter their natural functions and amount to changing their land use status.
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