Eight years ago, 11,450 trees were planted near Wazirabad along the National Highway 1. They were to compensate for an infrastructure project where a little less than 1,200 trees were chopped off. In 2017, when a third-party auditor conducted a field visit to check the health and growth of plantation in 24 locations across the city, it found all of them gone as they were cut for a road-widening project.
According to the reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Indian Express, 19.75 lakh trees were planted between 2009-10 and 2015-16 in the three Delhi Forest Department divisions — over 10.5 lakh of these were planted in the south division, 4.64 lakh in north and 4.61 lakh in west.
A third-party audit of the plantation was carried out by AFC India Limited in 2017, and while it found that the overall growth of plantations was good, new infrastructure projects, poor soil quality and lack of maintenance of some plants meant that some of them got damaged.
According to the RTI reply, the highest survival rate of any plantation in the 24 locations surveyed was 93% — at Shastri Park Metro Station area, where, according to the audit report, 8,800 trees were “well protected and maintained” and had an “excellent plantation of shisham, amaltas, pilkhan, pipal.”
The worst was seen in Waziarabad, where trees were destroyed because of road widening, and in Malikpur, where the audit report said the plantation of 3,000 trees was “totally fail”.
At Dera Mandi in the south forest division, only 23% of the 6,000 trees survived. Planted in 2015-16, they had grown to a height of 0.5 metres and lacked maintenance. A threat of animals to the plantation is also illustrated in the report. In 2010-11, the forest department planted 7,200 trees in the Ridge near Tughlakabad. The survival of these is 73% and the plants were bruised by Blue Bulls (Nilgai).
The plantation sites where the survival rate is above 80% usually had a boundary wall. In some areas, saline soil, floods, fires and tall grass impeded the growth.
According to a senior forest department official, plantations, which are done by the forest department, survive the best. The government has ordered a third-party audit of other plantation sites in the city.