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Delhi Pollution: Can 50% Green Cover Become a Reality?

Examining the Feasibility of Transforming Delhi with 50% Green Cover as a Countermeasure to Escalating Delhi Pollution Levels

By Khushi Jaiswal and Anshuman Singh
New Update

As Delhi grapples with escalating pollution levels, discussions surrounding this critical issue have once again taken centre stage across the nation. The nation's capital, in particular, has witnessed an alarming deterioration in air quality year after year. The culprits behind this environmental crisis are numerous, ranging from stubble burning by farmers in Punjab and Haryana to emissions from power plants, factories, and the ever-present menace of vehicular pollution. Delhi pollution is a recurring concern, and it seems to be a topic of conversation only when the situation becomes unbearable. However, there is one man who believes in a sustainable solution to the pollution crisis plaguing the national capital. Meet Swami Prem Parivartan, fondly known as Peepal Baba.

For over four decades, Swami Prem Parivartan, along with his dedicated team of volunteers, has undertaken a remarkable mission: planting over 2.5 crore saplings across India. Their collective effort seeks to combat pollution and represents a sustainable solution to Delhi's worsening environmental crisis. At the heart of Peepal Baba's vision lies an ambitious goal: converting 50 percent of Delhi NCR into a green cover, which he believes is the lasting solution to Delhi’s pollution crisis.

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Peepal Baba's vision, while ambitious, is grounded in a simple yet profound belief: Delhi should have a minimum of 40% green cover, ideally 50%. He explains, "Nowadays, everyone says that there are many trees in Delhi, just like Chandigarh and Gandhinagar. However, the population of Chandigarh is very low, and their greenery is appropriate for that ratio. But when you look at Delhi's population and traffic, 20% won't be enough; Delhi should have at least 40% green cover as a minimum. Ideally, it should be 50%. From a scientific, logical, and rational perspective, if you have any urban landscape, 50% should be reserved for the environment and for the natural world. This includes parks, green belts, green spaces, tree parks, dense clusters, and forest areas. The other 50% can be allocated for the citizens, allowing them to build factories, highways, expressways, buildings, schools, colleges, community spaces, or anything else they desire. So, there should be a 50-50 balance. If you only allocate 5% to nature and reserve the remaining 95% for human use, then pollution will be the result."

Peepal Baba's perspective challenges the prevalent notion that space constraints in urban areas are insurmountable. His message is clear: there is room for transformation, and the path to a greener future may be more accessible than we think.

"Many people ask me, 'What are you even talking about? 50% of the space is not even available. People don't even have spaces to park vehicles.' That's because people don't even bother to peek out of their residential spaces. You don't know the realities of the outer areas. You are not aware of how empty the Nangloi area is. You don't know how vacant outer Delhi is. You are not aware of the empty spaces in the North Eastern part of Delhi. If you go to Delhi-NCR, Greater Noida is so vacant, and there are many vacant spaces in Noida as well. One must go to Google and look at the mapping. Then you will realise that the urban concrete structure comprises only about 35-40%, which includes the streets, marketplaces, schools, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and everything else. The remaining 60% is completely empty. And here I am only talking about 50%," Peepal Baba asserts.

While Peepal Baba's vision offers a unique solution to Delhi's pollution problem, Nivit Kumar Yadav, Programme Director at the Centre for Science and Environment, highlights the challenges of implementing such an ambitious plan. "If 50% has to be converted into a forest area or green area, then it should be in each part of Delhi. Can you do it? If you do it, then definitely it will bring about change. I live in one of the most congested areas of Delhi. Can it be converted into 50% green area? In my area there is no park. Now, when I say I don’t have a park, what is the government going to do to bring parks here? To make even 1% of this area green is a challenge. If you want to make the 50 per cent green cover a reality, then we need political will."

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While the idea of converting 50% of Delhi into green space holds promise, environmental advocate Bhavreen Kandhari highlights a significant concern – the alarming rate of tree loss within the city. She emphasises the importance of safeguarding existing trees that serve as vital sources of oxygen in Delhi's urban environment.

"We are cutting 5 trees an hour in the city. So, first of all, let’s not destroy what we have. Even in this GRAP 2, there is no provision for preserving trees. They are still giving permissions to cut the trees. It’s essential to preserve the existing green cover. After that, we can focus on increasing the green cover,” Kandhari argues.

The aim of converting 50% of Delhi into green cover is ambitious but essential. Long-term strategies are crucial for tackling persistent issues like pollution, and this requires a government that's not just reactionary. Prioritising the protection of existing green areas and implementing a proactive approach is key to making Delhi greener and healthier for generations to come.

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