A city with a view: The afforestation of the Delhi Ridge, 1883-1913

Mann, Michael and Sehrawat, Samiksha (2009) A city with a view: The afforestation of the Delhi Ridge, 1883-1913. Modern Asian Studies, 43 (2). pp. 543-570. ISSN 0026-749X (http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X07002867)

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Despite the contemporary importance of the Ridge forest to the city of Delhi as its most important 'green lung', the concept of urban forestry has been explored neither by urban historians studying Delhi nor by environmental historians. This article places the colonial efforts to plant a forest on the Delhi Ridge from 1883 to 1913 within the context of the gradual deforestation of the countryside around Delhi and the local colonial administration's preoccupation with encouraging arboriculture. This project of colonial forestry prioritized the needs of the white colonizers living in Delhi, while coming into conflict repeatedly with indigenous peasants. With the decision to transfer the capital to Delhi in 1911, the afforestation of the Delhi Ridge received a further stimulus. Town planners' visions of a building the capital city of New Delhi were meant to assert the grandeur of British rule through imposing buildings, with the permanence of the British in India being emphasised by the strategic location of the ruins of earlier empires within the city. The principles of English landscape gardening inspired the planning of New Delhi, with the afforestation of the Delhi Ridge being undertaken to provide a verdant backdrop for-the Government House and the Secretariat-the administrative centre of British government in India. Imperial notions of landscaping, which were central to the afforestation of the Delhi Ridge epitomised colonial rule and marginalized Indians.