A steady increase in both the population of the city and the number of vehicles plying in the capital has led to adverse impacts, especially on the fringes of the ridge. Large animals, indigenous plant species and the scrubland have been lost to short sightedness of planners and administrators. The Ridge is rapidly shrinking, falling prey to unauthorized construction activities such as Religious Places, Para Military Forces Camps, Petrol Stations, Educational Institutes, Hospitals, Farm Houses, Shops, Hotels, Nurseries, Government Institutes, Parks and Garbage dumps.
Master Plan of Delhi (MPD-2001) and NCR plan also emphasized that ridge forest and sanctuaries should be conserved with utmost care and should be afforested with indigenous species with minimum of artificial landsape. But records show that in Northern Ridge 55 hectares of 87 hectares, in Central Ridge 192 hectares of 864 hectares, in South Central Ridge 63 hectares of 626 hectares has been converted into parks. Though Delhi has over a hundred public parks, tree lined avenues and thousands of manicured lawns but Delhi’s forest cover had been reducing perpetually. Though parks and forests both are clubbed as Greens, it must be recognized that parks cannot compensate for the loss of forest areas. The loss of tree and undergrowth cover due to this conversion has adversely affected the amount of water runoff, which earlier percolated down to recharge the underground water reservoirs. Not only this but Absorption of CO2 reduces, Dust Absorption capacity goes down while increasing the temperature and the noise level in the adjoining areas.
A large portion of the Ridge was declared protected, however, the legal protection given is weak and encroachments continue, including by the government itself. The situation has been further complicated by the multiple agencies in charge of the forest area and it’s greening.
The following are the various agencies involved:
1. Northern Ridge: DDA, MCD and Forest Deptt
2. Central Ridge: Forest Deptt, DDA, Army, CPWD, NDMC, and MCD
3. South Central Ridge: DDA
4. Nanakpura South Central: DDA
5. Southern Ridge: DDA, Forest Deptt, Sports Authority of India
Total 7784 ha
(Source: Greening Delhi Action Plan, 2006-07, Deptt of Forests & Wild Life)
In October 1995 Ridge Management Board was constituted, seven-member non-statutory body consisting of representatives from the government, DDA and non-government organizations, supposed to protect the ridge hasn’t also been able to solve the deadlocks either. It is surprising to note that the DDA is responsible for much of the encroachment which includes building new shopping malls, office complexes, hotels and roads.
The ridge has become prey to rampant ‘urbanization’ and ‘development’, which includes construction work, road widening, quarrying, garbage dumping and encroachments. Today more than 40 per cent of the Ridge has been destroyed and there are no signs of the damage abating. From time to time courts have stepped in for the protection of this heritage but the various legal notices and actions till date have often failed to reach the real target and instead of pressing for a eco-friendly development, the judiciary has put the ridge jurisdiction in the hands of government agencies which are selling our natural heritage for a few hundred crores.