Green activists in Agra on Wednesday warned of a steadily diminishing green cover in the Taj city, with one expert blaming monkeys for it.
The Supreme Court has been repeatedly asking authorities since 1996 to intensify efforts to develop a green belt to contain air pollution in Agra, India’s most popular tourist destination.
The International Day of Forests is celebrated on March 21 to increase awareness level and inculcate values relating to forests.
At a round table held on Wednesday here, environmentalists expressed concern over the latest trend of developing concrete jungles where once green forests existed.
“From Vrindavan to Agra, there were 12 big forests in the Braj area. But now only their names remain. The green patches have turned brown, yellow and grey,” said Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
Murari Lal Goswami, a retired Uttar Pradesh Forest Department official, said the builders and corrupt government officials had colluded to gobble up huge chunks of forest land.
“Illegal felling of trees continues along the Yamuna,” he said.
Surendra Sharma of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association said the continuous construction of roads, expressways, flyovers and other projects had taken a heavy toll on green cover, specially trees.
Despite the Supreme Court direction on developing a green belt around Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, no work had been done, he alleged.
One expert, K.P. Singh, noted that instead of increasing the forest cover area, the percentage had fallen to around 7 per cent against the national standard of 33 per cent.
The loss of green cover had affected the rainfall pattern, reducing the number of rainy days in Agra.
Green activist Devashish Bhattacharya said: “Agra was being ruined by so-called development. The alarming fall in the green cover due to negligence and corrupt ways of the bureaucracy will prove suicidal.”
Himani Dixit, en eminent horticulturist promoting tree plantation in Agra, said monkeys too were to blame.
“The monkeys are a big nuisance. We keep planting saplings all over but find the next day that the monkeys have uprooted them all. To promote green culture in the city, we will need to contain the monkey population.”