Delhi, at 180 square km, has the largest forest cover among metropolitan cities in the country. But despite this, experts said rapid urbanization has led to massive loss of natural conservation zones (NCZ) — water bodies, forests and wastelands — in Delhi.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar in a written reply in Rajya Sabha, maintained that Delhi has the largest forest cover of all four metropolitan cities while the country’s green cover is over 23 per cent.
Last year, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had quoted a National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) study and said a massive decline of NCZ had taken place in Delhi, vis-à-vis those contained in the Regional Plan-2021, notified in 2005.
The NCRB had filed an affidavit to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) admitting to a loss of 15.34% in NCZ in Delhi since 2005. The NCRPB study, done in conjunction with National Remote Sensing Centre, used satellite images and showed that Delhi had lost 22.6 per cent of its water bodies, 15 per cent of its forests and 11 per cent of its wasteland.
“It is true that Delhi continues to have lush forests. Recently, we have learned that a male leopard has made the city’s forests its home. This is great news. But this doesn’t mean that all is well. Forest land is continually mowed down to make way for development in Delhi and its satellite cities,” a senior forest officer said.
Mumbai has the second largest forest cover while Chennai has the lowest. “Information provided by the Ministry of Urban Development shows that forest cover of cities as per the respective master plans is Mumbai 86.57 sq km, Delhi 180 sq km and Chennai 24 sq km,” Javadekar said.