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Saturday, January 5, 2008

A forest within a City

"Amidst the teeming millions and cacophony of traffic of Delhi, stands a tranquil, dense forest popularly known as the "green lung" of the capital - the Delhi Ridge. Delhi has the distinction of being one of the few metros in the world that possesses a city forest. An extension of the Aravalli hill range, the Ridge forest spreads over almost 7,800 hectares. Surprisingly, this forest is not entirely "natural", with extensive plantations having taken place since 1847. Today, the Ridge is a mix of native and exotic plants, but still retains its semi-arid scrub vegetation characteristics. Up until the early part of the last century, animals like the Blackbuck, Nilgai and Chinkara roamed this scrub jungle. Rapid urbanisation and habitat degradation have taken their toll and over the years the Ridge has lost most of its big mammal population, with only the occasional hare or jackal still left. The area, however, still remains a birdwatchers' paradise, with almost 200 species being reported. The Ridge performs several ecological functions for Delhi. It acts as a giant sponge to air pollutants, and as an air-conditioner. So effective is this that one can feel a perceptible drop in temperature even while passing by it at the peak of Delhi's summer. The Ridge is also a live laboratory, and has inspired and nurtured many aspiring naturalists by teaching them the rudiments of ecology."

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