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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

No transparency in tree felling to avoid public pressure

Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, April 09, 2013
First Published: 23:42 IST(9/4/2013) | Last Updated: 23:46 IST(9/4/2013)

Not only the land-owning agencies such as the three municipal corporations that have not put in place adequate mechanisms to protect trees, the Delhi government's forest department has been equally lax, allege environmentalists.

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The Central Information Commission (CIC) had in 2011 ordered that details of complaints received on the tree helpline and actions taken should be posted online on the forest department's website. The CIC had also ordered that estimations of ecological costs, including the number of trees likely to be felled due to every infrastructure project, should also be made available online. But that has not happened.

"This was done initially but the practice was discontinued to minimise public pressure. No such information for the years 2012 and 2013 is available on the forest department's website," said tree activist Aditya N Prasad. "When I filed a right to information (RTI) application with the forest department, the department admitted that it had not sent a compliance note to the CIC," said Prasad. "Even RTI replies don't carry clear answers," said another activist.

While two colonies - Sarvodaya Enclave and Samachar Apartments - have conducted a tree census, a citywide census, first promised by the government in 1994, is yet to start. The last deadline lapsed was February.

Government agencies themselves are not letting trees breathe easy. The national green tribunal has issued notices to various departments when hearing a petition, accusing authorities of having failed to de-choke trees. The tribunal will hear the case on April 23.

Padmavati Dwivedi, a tree activist, who led the census team, said, "The authorities must use porous tiles for pavements and sidewalks and leave the mandatory 6x6 feet space around all trees. These provisions should be documented and explained before construction contracts are awarded."

Central rules issued in 2000 say an area of 6x6 feet around each tree be left vacant but the rule is hardly followed. The Delhi high court had in 2007 order de-choking of trees in the Capital but the progress has been slow.


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