During a hearing before the National Green Tribunal on Friday, all land-owning agencies and departments of the Union and Delhi governments were not able to cite even a single colony in the Capital where they have cleared all trees of concrete.
And this comes about two months of the tribunal setting a July 12 deadline for freeing all trees of concrete. The government agencies couldn’t cite a single colony in the Capital where the task had been completed.
The tribunal has asked all department heads (commissioners, secretaries or vice-chairmen) to file an affidavit and name three colonies each in their jurisdiction and report on complete de-choking of all trees before August 8, when the matter would be heard next. After this, an inspection will be carried out by a court commissioner and stern action will be taken in case of laxity.
During the hearing, the tribunal termed the official inaction “very sad, unfortunate and frustrating” and said in apparent dejection, “These are public issues. You have done nothing. You should do it yourself.”
At times the judges lost cool. “Don’t take it lightly. We can appoint a commissioner right away to verify your claims. You will either get credit from us or go to jail,” it said.
The judges said they travel 10km every day from the tribunal building in RK Puram to Ring Road and they have not found a single tree that has been de-choked. The tribunal also issued a notice of contempt to the forest department and the PWD for a recent concretisation of trees in Rohini.
A government paper submitted said the pace of the work was slow because of heavy traffic. “Are you trying to say cars are parked on trees?” the tribunal asked. The south municipal corporation even submitted pictures of electricity and telephone poles instead of trees from which hoardings, advertisements and signboards were removed.
The New Delhi Municipal Council submitted more or less the same data it had submitted before the Delhi High Court twice, in 2007 and 2010. It was conceded before the tribunal that same trees are choked, de-choked and again choked in Delhi to make money. “It’s a serious threat to environment and undue waste of public money,” the tribunal said.
Stay on cutting trees to remain
The national green tribunal said the stay on felling of trees to build elevated corridor on the outer ring road would continue till the next date of hearing (July 23). The public works department said it did not cut trees. But the tribunal questioned them on the basis of pictures of cut and damaged trees submitted by the applicant.