Despite losing thousands of trees to cyclones, this figure has increased by 25% in the past decade
CHENNAI: Chennai has turned greener in the past 10 years as tree cover in the city has increased by nearly 1,200 acres or 5sqkm, according to the 2021 Forest Survey Report, released on Thursday.
In 2011, only 4% of the total city was covered by forests and the green cover was largely because of the Guindy National Park. Back then, the total green cover was around 4,400 acres (18sqkm).
Despite losing thousands of trees to cyclones, this figure has increased by 25% in the past decade. Among several reasons, this growth could be attributed to the Greater Chennai Corporation’s Miyawaki initiative and citizen activism.
The civic body a few years ago wanted to convert a dumping site near Kotturpuram railway station into something useful. Every time, it was cleaned, waste would again be dumped at the site. So, Alby John, who was then the regional deputy commissioner of GCC’s south zone, decided to convert the land into a Miyawaki forest — a technique adopted by the Japanese in the 1980s to create small forest patches of urban spaces. Since it was received well by Chennaites, the project was expanded in 30 other areas.
Speaking to TOI, John said, “We are happy to hear that our initiative is also a reason for improving the tree cover. Though it is not a replacement for traditional plantation, it was a success because it evoked the enthusiasm of the public.”
Some experts have criticised the use of exotic tree species in this tech- nique. But John said these forest patches were created largely using native species and agreed that there was still a long way to go in terms of increasing the green cover.
The 2021 forest report shows that despite the increase, only 5% of Chennai’s total geographical area is covered by trees, which is much less compared to Mumbai, Delhi, or Hyderabad. Global standards suggest it should be around 33%. The only Indian city close to this is Mumbai, where forests occupy one-fourth of the total area. G Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an environmental organization alleges that the Union government has been fudging data (pertaining to forest cover) and it has not answered questions raised by the United Nations experts panel regarding this.