Delhi’s Ridge has been ignored for long with encroachments eating away the green areas.
New Delhi: To free the Ridge of encroachments, the Delhi forest department is considering a rehabilitation policy for encroachers.
Delhi’s Ridge, which is considered as the lungs of the city, has been ignored for long with encroachments eating away the green areas. In its affidavit to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) this year, the department had mentioned several encroachments by unauthorised colonies.
“The forest should be free from encroachment. On compassionate grounds, the government is thinking to provide rehabilitation to encroachers. As far as unauthorised colonies are concerned, it is illegal even if they are staying there for over 20 years,” said a senior government official.
Those living in unauthorised colonies have necessary documents like ration cards and have been shielded by politicians over the years as part of their vote-bank. They cut trees for firewood, thus causing a gradual destruction of the forest area. The official added that if the decision is taken, the department will have to identify the ones eligible for rehabilitation. However, the plan is still in the initial stage and no decision has been taken as of yet. First, the permission of the Union government will have to be sought.
As of now, the department will be undertaking an aggressive plantation drive to “stop new huts from coming up in the forest land.”
“Stopping the building of huts is one thing, but it will be converted into a plantation. If our camps are there and if we are present continuously for plantation work, encroachment will become very difficult,” he said.
For this, the department is increasing the strength of its eco task force consisting of ex-Army service persons so that the area is more protected. It is also involving some scientific institutes like the Forest Research Institute of Jodhpur for the procurement of saplings that will be more adaptive to the region.
The plantation activity is likely to begin after the civic polls on April 23.
The encroachment is even more problematic because the demarcation of the Ridge boundaries has been pending for 21 years now.