Various government agencies of Delhi first choked tree roots with concrete. Later, on the pretext of trying to save such trees, the government agencies got rid of the cement, only to restore the concretisation later.
This vicious cycle, which obviously involves massive wastage of public money, has been continuing in the city over the years.
Interestingly, central rules for de-choking trees were issued in the year 2000. The Delhi High Court in 2007, while hearing a petition filed by NGO Kalpvriksha, directed authorities to free trees of concrete.
Two years later, the court, while hearing another petition filed by SC Jain, ordered a survey in Delhi on the status and plans for de-concretisation. The Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (1994) also has provisions for penal action for those who trap trees in concrete.
This year, the green tribunal has passed a similar order to free trees from their trappings.
According to affidavits filed by the New Delhi Municipal Council, it de-choked close to 3,500 trees in 2007. The de-concretisation figure for the year 2010 stood at 6,000.
This year again, they claimed to have de-choked more than 1,500 trees.
For example, on Dr Zakir Hussain Road, the NDMC de-choked 117 trees in 2007. In 2010, the number, instead of standing at zero, stood at 377. Now in 2013, the agency says it has freed 129 trees of cement.
All other land-owning agencies such the three municipal corporations, public works department, Delhi Development Authority and National Highway Authority of India have more or less followed the same game. One of the departments even conceded before the National Green Tribunal on Friday that for the sake of “pavement economics”, de-choked trees are again concretised.
It went on to say that unless the tribunal passed an order against “pavement economics” itself, the practice of concretisation would continue.
Even the tribunal in its order said, “...if trees are deconcretised, they are again concretised for economic benefits. Again time is taken and efforts are made for de-concretisation. Concretisation is a wastage of public money besides resulting in environmental hazards.”
It also issued an order, “Wherever de-concretisation is complete, public authorities are directed against fresh concretisation. We direct all authorities to ensure that public money is not wasted.”
The tribunal has asked all department heads to identify three colonies each in their jurisdiction and complete de-choking of all trees before August 8.