KOLKATA: The city had the least forest cover among the metros of India, revealed a recently published report by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.
Kolkata used to have the second highest green cover among all the other cities in the country but it lost the position over the past one decade, owing to successive tropical cyclones that hit the city, uprooting trees, wreaking havoc on city’s environment. The green cover plays a big role in the betterment of the ambient air and for its climate resilience.
Trees also help neutralize the heat island effect. Without a thick green covers, a city’s overall environment deteriorates faster.
The recently conducted study showed that Kolkata lost 30% percent forest cover between 2011 and 2021. This is the second highest forest cover loss after that in Ahmedabad, which saw a loss of 48% forest cover in the corresponding decade. “The loss is quite abysmal, compared to that in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai, which have gained forest cover of 11%, 9%, 15% and 26% in the same period,” said Ajay Mittal, director, climate change, India and South Asia, Earth Day Network. “It’s high time we recognized it and took up remedial measures, like intensive plantation without wasting any time,” he added.
“Apart from heightened real estate and other infrastructure projects, fiercest successive cyclones, such as Aila, Amphan and Yaas, have robbed us of the green covers. The loss is irrecoverable and we now need intensive plantation to improve the green cover,” said an official of urban and recreational forestry wing of the forest department, responsible for urban forest covers.
Environmentalist Bonani Kakkar pointed out the city was growing grey because of low survival rate of compensatory plantation done against felling trees because of infrastructure projects. “Most of the time, trees are planted shoddily, planted just for the heck of it. The post-plantation care is completely missing. Most of them have premature deaths for the lack of basic care,” said Kakkar of People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC).
But civic officials claimed they took care to plant trees. “It is not that we did not plant enough saplings against the loss of forest covers during the cyclones. But most of the plants will take a few more years to be mapped by satellites. But of course, there is no denial that the city has inadequate green cover, compared to most other metro cities,” said a KMC official of the parks and gardens department.