The National Green Tribunal on Thursday tore into government agencies for being insensitive and irresponsible towards trees in Delhi.
The tribunal was hearing a contempt petition it had issued against the forest department, the public works department and the south Delhi municipal corporation after Hindustan Times reported that these agencies were damaging trees while removing concrete from around their bases.
When the corporation said, trees fell because of rains, the tribunal said, ""Tell me if the pictures published are factually incorrect or tampered with. We want you to please stand straight and take a stand."
In response to the corporation's plea that labourers were only trying to clear them post-fall, the tribunal said, "Are labourers your executive engineers? This is reckless deconcretisation of trees. Have you looked at the thick trunk? Your engineer had no time to look after these trees?"
"Be sensible and own your responsibility. You're a public body. You own a statutory responsibility. Your current stand will lead you to more trouble. You're fighting your own perceptions. God help you," the tribunal said.
The forest department pleaded that it had nothing to do with the ongoing deconcretisation work. "A deputy conservator of forests has inspected the sites and issued a notice to an executive engineer of the south Delhi municipal corporation," its lawyer said.
But this didn’t please the tribunal either. "You only woke up after we issued notice to you. It is sad if you think you are good and safe. Contempt jurisdiction is a good jurisdiction. Without that nothing moves," the tribunal said. The tribunal asked the corporation to respond to the forest department's stand. The PWD will respond to the allegations of use of heavy machinery in removal of concrete. The tribunal will hear the matter next on September 19.
Hindustan Times had on August 8 first reported the use of JCB earth-moving machines --- normally used for heavy-duty demolition --- in removing cement, digging out soil and damaging trunks and roots.
Taking cognizance of the report, the tribunal had the same day ordered government agencies to cure the trees which they damaged. The tribunal had also ruled those found causing the damage again would pay fine from their pockets. But the use of such machines continued, damaging a large number of trees across Delhi. This led to the contempt notice.
The tribunal has ordered the Delhi Development Authority to ensure removal of concrete from tree trunks in all colonies of Delhi by September 19.