The Land and Development Office (L&DO), Ministry of Housing Urban Affairs, has allotted 700 acres of land to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for compensatory plantation in lieu of trees to be felled in the city for metro construction activities.
Can compensatory afforestation on the Yamuna floodplain in Delhi affect its structure and composition?
The NGT-appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee is looking for answers after environmentalist Manoj Misra of ‘Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan’, a civil society consortium working for the river’s protection, wrote to it alleging any compensatory afforestation can result in an “avoidable alteration in the natural functions of the floodplains”.
According to Misra, the Land and Development Office (L&DO), Ministry of Housing Urban Affairs, has allotted 700 acres of land to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for compensatory plantation in lieu of trees to be felled in the city for metro construction activities.
In a letter to the green panel, he contended that any attempt to “artificially raise” trees in the floodplains in Delhi can change the structure, composition and even the hydrology of the floodplains in terms of soils, vegetation, water exchange with the atmosphere and the biota.
“River beds including floodplains are rejuvenation life lines of rivers. The natural vegetation — grasses, sedges, bushes and a few trees here and there (that come up on their own) — act as natural filters and habitats of varied animals, birds and insects that frequent the floodplains, river channel and floodplain wetlands,” Misra said.
These lands also help the river come into its own during the floods and exchange of silt, water and nutrients happen then, he said.
Any afforestation activity would result in an avoidable alteration in the natural functions of the floodplains and would be no better than changing the land use there. Therefore, such a tree plantation activity in the floodplains is “unscientific and undesirable”, Misra told the green panel.
The two-member panel, comprising retired National Green Tribunal expert member B S Sajawan and former Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra, said, “It is necessary to see whether the proposed afforestation can have an impact on the floodplains and whether afforestation, which itself is a laudable activity, is contraindicated here, as alleged.”
The panel has asked the L&DO, DMRC, DDA, to give their observations and comments on the issue.