In a recent statement, the Delhi Development Authority has revealed that they are facing a shortage of land for carrying out "compensatory afforestation". The urban body has termed it as a crisis that will adversely impact upcoming development projects in Delhi.
According to the Forest Conservation Act (1980), compensatory afforestation has to be carried out for the diversion of forest land, or deemed forest land, for non-forest purposes. Agencies carrying out development works are required to compensate for the loss of “land by land” and loss of “trees by trees”.
In its aftermath, environmentalist Diwan Singh is raising concerns mentioning that "development" is only possible when green norms are met. The following has been written by him as a reaction to DDA's statement.
DDA says it has no land to do compensatory plantations to compensate for the trees felled due to development projects. Does it not mean that the city has run out of its carrying capacity? What is so holy about doing more housing, roads, and buildings if the city is deficient in the land to plant trees to offset the ecological loss incurred due to these projects. Isn't the health of people holier?
The shortage of land to do compensatory plantation is a strong signal to stop all upcoming infrastructure projects. Delhi is already a city of nearly 25 million but our planners think that Delhi needs more "development" so that more population can settle in it. Investment in big cities is a vicious cycle that brings more migration and that in turn gives reason to construct more, to provide more infrastructure.
As per research by Economist magazine, cities over 5 million scores poor on the liveability index. Delhi is already 25 million. Very few researchers have gone into the fact that after an optimum city size is achieved, the economies of scale start reversing, and its manageability becomes very poor. The per capita cost of living and consumption of resources start increasing manifold. But, planners in developing countries are motivated by World Bank, IMF and other financial and consulting institutions. Such organizations look for providing lucrative loans and consultancy projects that become available courtesy of the unhindered urbanization we pursue in developing countries.
Diwan Singh is a community water activist from Sector 23 Dwarka. He was recently honoured with 'Jal Prahri' Samman 2022 for his revival and conservation work by the Ministry of Water Power. He has been working towards the environment for more than 17 years. In 2012, Diwan and his team took up the campaign to revive water bodies in Sector 23 Dwarka, Delhi. With the collective efforts from the community and administration, this is now one of the best revived freshwater bodies in Delhi.