New Delhi: Forest cover in the national capital increased from six per cent in 1999 to 20.8 percent in 2013 mainly due to plantation activity carried out in non-forest areas, the city government has told the Delhi High Court.
The government has also told the court that around five lakh seedlings have been planted in order to compensate for the 46,529 trees that have been felled by Delhi metro from 2003-04 to 2014-15.
The Aam Aadmi Party government has told the court that about "20 greening agencies", including the horticulture wings of various municipal bodies, as well as its forest department are carrying out plantation activity with an aim of improving air quality and reducing pollution in the city.
It also told the court that earlier it used to insist on planting of 10 saplings for every tree cut, but the policy was "refined" in 2010 to ensure plantation of at least five saplings, as planting of 10 by the user agency was "not encouraging" and most were almost "failures".
The city government's submissions have been made in an affidavit filed in the high court on a PIL over the issue of rise in air pollution in the national capital.
On the National Forest Policy of 1988 envisaging an average national forest cover of 33 per cent, the government has said that Delhi being an urban capital with ever-expanding developmental needs for its rising populace, there would always be a crunch for land for planting trees.
However, the government was leaving no stone unturned to increase green cover in Delhi and its efforts are leading to a gradual rise in number of trees, the affidavit has said.
The Delhi metro has also paid Rs 71.67 crore towards the compensatory plantation, the affidavit states.
The government has also told the court that earlier it used to charge Rs 28,000 per felled tree from individuals or for commercial projects to plant 10 trees under compensatory plantation.
Now the charges have been revised to Rs 34,000 for individuals and Rs 57,000 for commercial or developmental projects, it has said.
It said half of the amount is refunded after half the plantation is successfully raised.
On August 12, high court had observed that the extent of green cover as shown on paper was "not the true picture".
The court had also asked the Delhi government what it was doing to maintain the current green cover as well as to increase it to 33 per cent as required under the master plan 2021 and National Forest Policy of 1988.