Env Min pitches ‘Urban Forest’ to counter pollution

On November 21, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar proposed that urban forests be set up urban to combat the dangerous levels of air pollution in India’s cities.

urban forest

The Minister said, “The Centre had identified 200 cities and told the civic corporations there that we would give the money for the creation of urban forests.”

Javadekar has been in support of this set-off strategy since at least 2016, when the Environment Ministry undertook the Urban Forestry Scheme to create an ‘urban jungle’ in Pune on about 80 acres of land. He said, “There is a need for urban forests. We need to plant trees. We have done that in Pune where the forest is spread over 70 acres. Today, many people walk to the place every day. That would be a big tourist attraction in coming days.”

In the press information release for that scheme, Javadekar explained the need for the urban forestry program by stating that most of our cities have gardens and parks but no forests, and that even where the forest department has its land, there is only degraded forestry or no forest at all. Javadekar reportedly stated in the Parliament, “Seven trees give oxygen for one person’s lifetime. … We have to make it a people’s movement. It is the responsibility of everyone. If human actions have damaged the earth then human actions will improve it.” This is rather ironic given how it is the BJP that has been at the forefront of undertaking ‘development’ projects that require the sacrifice of forests.

Take the case of the Aarey forest in Mumbai where 2,700 trees were chopped despite citizens’ protests, to make way for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s car shed. Also, nearly 54,000 mangroves were set to be cut for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train. BJP MLA and former mayor of Mira-Bhayandar municipality Narendra Mehta was reported to have cut down 35 acres in the area to build a posh club!

Meanwhile, Javadekar expressed confidence that the government would find a lasting solution to the pollution problem within the next 15 years. Additionally, he listed out steps that the government has taken to control pollution created by construction sites, emissions from vehicles, and disposal of waste.

As to the deteriorating air quality in Delhi, he said that there has been successive improvement in the quality in from January-November 19 from 2016.  He claimed that “good” and “moderate” air quality days in the national capital had improved over the past three years.


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