Guwahati, July 9: Assam has 128 square km of urban tree cover, way ahead of other states of the Northeast, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has revealed in the state of forest report released yesterday.
This is the first time that the FSI has done a study on urban tree cover in the country as greening of urban landscape is one of the important measures to mitigate some of the problems of urbanisation.
Trees grown in urban areas have contributed significantly in cleaning the environment but also in fulfilling the timber and fuel wood requirement of poor people living in cities.
“Urban trees and forests can contribute immensely to the quality of life in towns and cities. Urban forest is one of the resources of an urban area, it is part of its infrastructure and is integral to the quality of life of its residents,” the report stated. Environmental services of urban forests are climate and air quality improvement, energy saving, reduction of global warming and carbon dioxide, noise abatement, soil conservation and others.
In this survey, all trees recorded in urban area and outside the forest area have been considered. Trees with more than 10cm diameter have been included in the survey.
Among states, Tamil Nadu has the maximum green cover of 1,509 square km followed by Maharashtra (1,373 square km), Karnataka (1,276 square km) and Kerala (1,241 square km).
A senior forest official said the issue needs a detailed study as it would be difficult to tell how Assam has done in planting trees in its urban surroundings as compared to other cities.
“Enough importance has been given to planting trees in urban areas of the state to protect the environment,” another official said.
Encroachment of reserve forests and hills in Guwahati has forced the department to go for massive planting of trees, using younger children as agents of change.
During Environment Day celebrations in the Northeast, many initiatives are taken to encourage people to plant fruit-bearing trees.
Welcoming the emphasis on urban tree cover by the FSI, Simanta Kalita, programme co-ordinator of the Centre for Environment Education, Guwahati, said as urban forestry is important there has to be a planned programme on planting trees in urban areas.
“We can identify some old trees in Guwahati and conserve them,” he said, adding that certain areas can be earmarked so that these can be made into “green lungs” of the city.
Meghalaya principal chief conservator of forests Sunil Kumar said the department has been trying to increase the green cover in urban centres, particularly in the state capital. However, he lamented that in view of the increased built-up area in the state capital, space for planting more trees has become scarce.
In contrast, a semblance of greenery is conspicuous in places like Tura and Jowai, although these urban centres are also expanding both in terms of human population and infrastructure.
Kumar said the department would soon carry out a survey to identify pockets, which could be converted into “green lungs” in the urban areas. “We will first start with Shillong, and then move on to other places,” he added.