Chennai is the fourth largest city in India with 426 km2 on the east coast with burgeoning population of 8 million. Over the years, the city has been rapidly losing its tree cover because of ad-hoc growth and poorly planned expansion. More recently, the green cover in the city suffered another setback owing to loss of many trees to cyclone Vardah in December 2016. Besides Vardah’s impact, the green nature of the city is being compromised largely because green areas are being converted into urban spaces.

Care Earth Trust was responsible for preparing the master plan and detailed project report for plantation strategy in Greater Chennai Corporation to study and assess existing urban green spaces in the city. The scope of the project was to prepare a sustainable urban greening strategy by assessing the existing green spaces and to study the existing urban vegetation. Understanding the plant species composition of the city and preparation of site-specific greening strategy was part of the mandate.

The survey revealed a total of 9,041 tree species located alongside roads and avenues of Chennai. Adyar Zone is the most tree-rich zone in Chennai Corporation followed by Anna Nagar and Teynampet; the latter two zones are also high in tree diversity each with 65 species.

The study proposed a holistic improvement of green cover by planting trees not only in the streets and parks but also other open spaces with recommended indigenous species. This five-year plan, guided by urban forestry expertise and plantation guidelines prepared is critical to meet the city’s commitment to, sustainability, carbon sequestration, stormwater runoff reduction, wildlife habitat enhancement, water conservation, healthy communities, and climate change mitigation and resilience. Effective implementation of these recommendations will enhance the green cover of the city to march towards ecologically sustainable development.