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What’s replacing Delhi’s felled trees? Many non-native species with little ecological value

The National Buildings Construction Corporation, in the eye of a storm over redevelopment of seven central government colonies in south Delhi, too leans towards plants with these characteristics.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi | Updated: June 26, 2018 3:19:07 am
tree felling in delhi, delhi trees, lg office statement, raj niwas statement, delhi tree cutting order, deelhi high court tree felling, nbcc Most trees the corporation, in its previous redevelopment projects in New Moti Bagh and Kidwai Nagar (under construction), planted were non-native to Delhi and had very little ecological value. (Express photo/Tashi Tobgyal)

Fast growing, evergreen, beautiful, and non-native— these seem to be the criteria agencies in Delhi look for when they plant trees. The National Buildings Construction Corporation, in the eye of a storm over redevelopment of seven central government colonies in south Delhi, too leans towards plants with these characteristics.

Most trees the corporation, in its previous redevelopment projects in New Moti Bagh and Kidwai Nagar (under construction), planted were non-native to Delhi and had very little ecological value. Consider this:

Express Explained | Trees vs ‘development’ in Delhi

Ficus Benjamina

* As many as 1,180 planted in New Moti Bagh, 780 in East Kidwai Nagar; non-native to Delhi, native to parts of Asia and Australia. “It is a useless species… mostly an indoor plant… The tree… can grow up to 40 feet… It is chosen because it is an evergreen, garden plant,” said Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi.

Plumeria alba

* A total of 1,073 planted in New Moti Bagh; non-native to Delhi, native to Mesoamerica (Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua). “More like a shrub mostly planted on central verges and has ornamental value,” said Faiyaz Khudesar, scientist at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, which has many native trees.

Ashoka Pandula

* 822 planted in East Kidwai Nagar; non-native to Delhi, native to south India and Sri Lanka. “This is an evergreen tree and ornamental in nature. It is fit for areas that have more rain as compared to Delhi,” Krishen said.

Express Editorial | A spreading green

The environment impact assessment report for redevelopment of Sarojini Nagar has also suggested fast-growing trees for mass plantation. “Based on climate and soil characteristics of study area, some species are recommended for plantation. To have a ground cover, fast growing species, which do not require watering, have been recommended for mass plantation. Green belt in the project site, for both existing and proposed, includes tree plantation Ashoka, Neem, Palm, Pine, Bamboo, etc,” it says.

According to Khudesar, a tree cover that is up to three-storeys high is required to combat pollution. “Pine, for example, has needle-like leaves; how will it help? The others are short trees with ornamental value,” he said.
He added that non-native trees either require dedicated care and resources to grow, or are invasive like the vilayati kikar. In New Moti Bagh, NBCC has planted 116 vilayati kikar trees.

Read | Can Delhi afford to cut down so many trees for housing project, HC asks NBCC

NBCC chairperson A K Mittal Monday said that New Moti Bagh would be the model for greening of new projects as well. “Our redevelopment is on display at New Moti Bagh, where green coverage is about 65% compared to barren land we acquired, and East Kidwai Nagar, where there are no tube wells and ground water usage now,” Mittal said.
He conceded that not all green areas in these projects are trees or shrubs but also include parks and grassy lawns. “There has to be place for children and elderly too in a housing colony,” he said.

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