New Delhi: Aiming at restoring biodiversity in Delhi Ridge and reducing pollution level, the city government has started planting several species native to the Aravali range in the northern part of the terrain.
The Northern Ridge, also called the Kamala Nehru Ridge, is part of the vast Delhi Ridge which is an extension of the ancient Aravali hill range in the national capital.
The initiative is being carried out by the government's forest department and Delhi Development Authority under the supervision of C R Babu, a Delhi University scientist at Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems.
As part of the initiative, authorities have started pruning the canopies of ‘Vilayati Babul' or ‘Kikar' (Prosopis juliflora), a highly invasive Mexican-native species which has encroached upon the ridge area resulting in the elimination of about 450 native species.
‘Vilayati Kikar' were planted in the 1920s by the Britishers as part of their process to beautify the wastelands. Botanists, who experimented with different exotic species of plants, found that ‘Vilayati Kikar' adapted itself well to the dry and arid soil of the Northern Ridge.
“Vilayati Kikar is an ecological menace because it flourishes at the cost of others. It is also depleting the groundwater level as its roots go as deep as 15 m and beyond to absorb water from the aquifers. It dries up the moisture of the surface soil besides denying water and sunlight to native plants,” Babu said.
“The pruning is being done in such a way so as to ensure that sunlight reaches the forest floor where native species are being planted. As of now, we have planted a myriad of native species on a stretch of two km,” said Babu.
A senior forest department official said replacing ‘Vilayati Kikar' with native plant species will be a long and challenging process for them.
The government has started planting 15 native Aravali species in the Northern Ridge, Babu said, adding that the project aims at bringing back about 5,000 native species which existed 150 years ago in the ridge.
“These native species play a vital role as they act as barrier to the the dust storms from the desert areas, buffer temperature and help in recharging the ground water. The biodiversity enrichment will also attract birds and a myriad of animal species,” Babu said.
The project, a “first of its kind”, will be implemented in 84 hectares of land, he added.