iconimg Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 19, 2013
National Green Tribunal directs UTTIPEC to have on its panel an environmentalist and an official from the forest department The National Green Tribunal on Friday ordered that an environmentalist and a forest department official be made part of Delhi’s apex body for planning and approval of traffic and transport projects.

The order comes as good news both for the city’s green cover as well as infrastructure projects.

The two members will provide inputs from their perspective to avoid unnecessary green loss and ensure that projects are not caught in legal tangles, as green concerns are often raised and projects challenged in courts during construction.

So far, the unified traffic and transportation infrastructure (planning & engineering) centre or UTTIPEC only had members from land-owning agencies, besides various traffic and transport authorities, giving it a primarily all-engineering outlook.

Delhi forest department head GN Sinha told HT, “We welcome the move. If we’re indeed involved during planning (of projects) and not right before execution, we can certainly change alignments here and there and check avoidable loss of greenery. Though we are requested to grant felling permission, there’s always a sense of fait accompli (a deal sealed).”

The tribunal was hearing a petition that a road project in west Delhi will cause avoidable green loss when it gave its order.

Tree activist Aditya N Prasad, on whose petition the tribunal passed the order, said, “UTTIPEC, while planning and approving projects, does not take into consideration environment aspects. It causes widespread damage to flora and fauna.”

“It is only after projects are approved, tenders awarded and often commencement of work that the forest department is asked to allow felling of trees. We hope with this order, things will change for better,” he said.

Road widening in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj and many others projects have been delayed because the forest department was not taken on board during planning.