Delhi Central Ridge to be revived with native tree species to improve air quality and groundwater

By: |
March 5, 2021 3:16 PM

The ridge is 7,700 hectares of reserved forest and its northern extension is densely populated by an invasive plant species brought during the colonial era but is not serving the purpose of being the city’s lungs.

central ridge, delhi air qualitym, delhi pollution, ridge forest in Delhi, Delhi legislation to restore ridge forestThe ridge is 7,700 hectares of reserved forest and its northern extension is densely populated by an invasive plant species brought during the colonial era. (IE Image)

Can the revival of a forest clear that dense smog on Delhi’s skyline? Delhi University Professor C R Babu who is heading the Centre for Environmental management of degraded Ecosystems thinks so. Restoring 400 acres if the Central Ridge in the Aravalli range can positively impact Delhi’s air quality and groundwater level.

Restoration work will begin this month and the team head by Prof-Babu aims to turn the area into a space that boasts of the rich biodiversity of the Aravallis and invite people to catch a butterfly or take safaris and nature trails in the forest and around water bodies in the heart of the national capital.

The ridge is 7,700 hectares of reserved forest and its northern extension is densely populated by an invasive plant species brought during the colonial era but is not serving the purpose of being the city’s lungs.

The leaves of the invasive species-Prosopis juliflora’ or vilayati kikar re small and smooth and dust glide through, with a negligible amount sticking to it. If these species are replaced with three-layer forest cover consisting of broad-leaved trees and shrubs, they can act as a barrier to dust-laden winds. The tress will sieve out the dust particles as polluted air pass through the bottom layer of the forest, said Prof, Babu.

However, first, kikar needs to be removed as it will not let other plant species survive or reproduce around there. Also, the tree with its deep root system has the quality to dry out underground water storage as far as 20 meters. Native shrubs and trees suck water, comparatively less, only around 5 meters. Moreover, the canopy of kikar is so dense that it does not let sunlight reach the ground hindering the growth of the shrubs.

The kikar trees have started dying in the northern ridge near the Hindu Rao hospital due to the lack of groundwater. Prof Babu further said that although the kikar tress cannot be completely remove its few branches can be chopped to let sunlight sneak in and let sampling grow.

The restoration work will start with bout 100 hectares along the Sardar Patel Marg in the first phase and the remaining area afterwards. Prof Babu is hopeful that the residents in that area will see the changes in air quality in a couple of years. A variety of shrubs, trees, climbers will be plated and grow over the canopy of kikar to block sunlight and inhibit its decay.

This plan to restore 423 hectares of the central Ridge in five years was cleared by the Delhi cabinet in February.

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