The Delhi government has set an ambitious target of increasing the city's green cover from 20.6 per cent to 25 per cent by 2025, but officials say this is possible only if the DDA hands overland on the Yamuna riverbanks to the forest department.
At present, Delhi's green cover, comprising forest and tree cover, is 305.4 sq km or 20.6 per cent of the total area, according to the latest India State of Forest Report (ISFR) released in 2017. It was 20.2 per cent in 2015.
The National Forest Policy aims at bringing a minimum of one-third of India's total geographical area under green cover.
The green cover should be at least 66 per cent of the total area in hilly regions and 20 per cent in the plains.
A senior official said that on the directions of the Delhi High Court, the forest department has prepared a green action plan which proposes to increase the national capital's green cover to 25 per cent by 2025.
"But it can be done only if adequate land is given to us. We have suggested that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) hand over the land in the ''O'' zone of the Yamuna banks to us," the official said.
"The forest department needs around 6,500 hectares more to achieve the target. A total of 9,000 hectares of land is available in the ''O'' zone," he said.
While submitting an action plan in 2015 too, the department had said there was a scarcity of land in Delhi and only the ''O'' zone had enough land available for forestation.
The ''O'' zone, as categorised by the DDA, covers the river, riverbank, and floodplains.
"We have reiterated the same thing... So far, the DDA has given us 230 hectares of land," he said.
As part of the green action plan, the forest department has proposed "maximum plantation in the ''O'' zone, removal of encroachments on forest land, formulation and implementation of a tree transplantation policy and strengthening departmental infrastructure for better enforcement of forest laws, and revival and rejuvenation of wetlands", according to officials.
Out of the 370 hectares of land under encroachment, 35 hectares has been cleared, demarcated and fenced in the Ridge area in south Delhi over the past six months, another official said.
The high court had on Monday asked the government to remove these encroachments in four weeks.