The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday ordered an interim stay on a road widening project in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj till the next hearing on May 29. The tribunal also warned the Delhi government of strong action if further felling of trees took place.
The government admitted that the Public Works Department had started felling trees without mandatory permission from the forest department.
The tribunal also issued a bailable warrant against the chief executive engineer of the PWD because he was not present at the hearing.
The tribunal was hearing a petition against the widening project filed by Sonya Ghosh, a resident of sector D3 of Vasant Kunj. The tribunal has asked the government to file a reply in two weeks. In a three-part series on March 5, 6 and 7, Hindustan Times had highlighted how the PWD widening a 3.5-km stretch from Andheria Mod towards Mahipalpur by demolishing boundaries and felling trees illegally.
A group of residents had said that a 75-metre-wide road (current width is 17.2 metres) for high-speed traffic through a densely-populated colony would disturb normal life. On completion, this would be the Capital’s widest road.
A local court on February 26 has already stayed work on the road-widening project in front of Sector D2 on a plea by the residents.
They claimed that the project was being executed in the most brazen manner and in complete disregard of the civic and environmental norms.
The representation of PWD in the tribunal is necessary to adjudicate the dispute and, in fact, PWD is responsible for carrying out the widening work, said the tribunal.
The 3.5-km stretch where it is being widened from four lanes to eight lanes has on its both flanks hundreds of flats in several pockets of sectors such as A and D. Sector A has pockets named A, B and C. Rest of the sectors in Vasant Kunj have pockets named in numeric value.
The brazen felling of trees without permission has exposed the lack of seriousness on part of the authorities in protecting Delhi’s green cover.
When the felling started residents and activists went up in arms. As the chorus grew, felling was stopped but the digging of soil continued, leaving a number of trees with exposed roots and without any soil support.