When Hindustan Times questioned the custodians of Delhi’s green cover over the massive loss of trees in the road-widening project, they rejected the queries as “RTI-type questions”.
“These are RTI-type questions. Why don’t you go after the department that has approved the project? We’re not party to that decision. Why does everyone want to go after the forest department? Our role is secondary in this matter,” said a top forest department over the phone.
The official lost his cool when HT asked some tough questions regarding the illegal (because permission had not been obtained) felling of trees for widening the road in Vasant Kunj.
“Nobody is bothered about the ill-effects of damages being caused to the environment. You’re only interested in a few trees felled here and there. When projects such as this are undertaken, tress would be felled even if they are located in front of the Prime Minister’s house,” he went on.
“Your queries can be answered only by the deputy conservator of forests (west zone),” he said before hanging up.
The DCF (west), who is also the tree officer for this particular matter, could not be reached on the phone despite repeated attempts.
One of essential mandates of the forest department is to protect and augment Delhi’s green cover. Infrastructure projects such road widening involve several other agencies as well.
“Stakes are often high. The forest department is often left with no other option but to toe the government’s line, often compromising the protection of green cover. And this helplessness breeds frustration,” confessed a senior Delhi government official.
Workers on public works department (PWD) contract allegedly felled several trees without the forest department’s permission. The PWD and the environment department (forest department comes under the latter’s jurisdiction) both said action was being taken against the guilty and orders had been issued to stop work.
But when HT visited the site on Wednesday, JCB and other machines and a substantial workforce were working on the site.
“Both PWD and forest department come under Delhi government. Had the government showed the will, the damage to the green cover would have stopped immediately,” admitted another official.