Construction agencies are ‘’officially’’ damaging trees. And the Delhi forest department is complicit in the crime.
While applying for felling of 914 trees to build an elevated road on Outer Ring Road between Vikaspuri and Meera Bagh in West Delhi, the public works department had early this year submitted an affidavit to the forest department stating these trees had been numbered with paint on steel plates. Sarvagya Kumar Srivastav, PWD’s chief engineer, has signed the affidavit.
“You can use these plates only by nailing them to trees. And this is exactly what PWD had done. When activists or media expose the damage it causes to the trees, the forest department blames the ignorance of contractors of construction agencies. While the fact remains that the entire damage is done with its consent,” said tree activist Aditya N Prasad.
No wonder, the forest department didn’t take action against the PWD even after HT on April 13 reported the nailing of the trees. The report cited the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, which says nailing a tree would attract a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to R1,000 or both.
“Prior to submission of applications for felling of trees, construction agencies need to count trees. But simply because they are going to apply for felling, they’re not entitled to start the damage during counting itself. What if the permission is not granted? In case of the Vikaspuri-Meera Bagh stretch, the forest department has actually not given permission for felling,” Prasad said.
The PWD has, however, started expanding the road by demolishing the footpath hacking tree branches coming in the way. A letter dated January 29, PWD executive engineer Ravindra Yadav has written to the deputy chief conservator of forests (west division) indicating a sense of urgency.
The letter reads: “It is pertinent to mention that the above work is a highly prestigious project of the Delhi government and the progress of the same is being monitored at the highest level. Also, the tenders for the above work have already been received and the work is likely to start in the first week of February.”
Prasad sourced both the affidavit and the letter, now in possession of HT, through a right to information application.