<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government’s forest department is going to start its ‘Kikar-Hatao’ campaign from the Central Ridge this year. The ridge, spread over 864 hectares of land, has around 443 hectares available for restoration.Prof CR Babu, ecologist, who had headed the removal of Kikar trees from Aravalli Biodiversity Park, said, “It is crucial to replace the Kikar tree plantation from the Central Ridge where its numbers are very high. It takes away the entire sunlight not allowing other trees to grow and since its rooted 21 meters in the ground, it fast depletes the water table.”Prof Babu said, “Thank to Kikar, the number of bird species and insects have highly reduced in this forest, as there is no food available for them to survive. The entire ecosystem needs to be restored here.”Currently out of the total forest cover of the Capital, 60 per cent is Kikar. Most of the plantation is found in the Central Ridge. The department has tied up with the Dehradun Forest Research Institute (FRI) for research and replacement of the Vilayati Kikar with indigenous species.The AAP government has allocated a budget of Rs 50 lakh for removal of the species. A 10-member team is being set up for the initial stages of the project.”It is a long-term plan. This year will be consumed in studying the place and strategising on replacement of Kikar plantation. At present we are actively dealing with the FRI on the scientific research measures to be taken,” said A K Shukla, Delhi’s chief wildlife warden.While there are some native trees in the forest, Kikar is the dominant species, he added.”With the FRI we will know through research, which of the native species will be appropriate for replacement plantation, which can also restrict the expansion of Kikar,” said Shukla.However, in order to start work, the forest department is to apply for clearances from the Ridge Management Board and the Supreme Court. “The process of obtaining NOCs will be discussed in the next meeting of the department and the Ridge Management Board,” said a senior official. Officials also added say that the project which began with the Central Ridge on a pilot basis, will be later extended to the other three ridge areas. Delhi has a total ridge area of 7,777 hectares distributed across — Central Ridge, Southern Ridge, Northern Ridge and Southern-Central Ridge.