While the city reels under spiralling air pollution, the Delhi government has allowed the removal of trees from an area of 46 hectares — running into more than 50 football fields — to make way for the redevelopment of DDA’s Qutub Golf Course at Lado Sarai in the city.
The government has invoked the ‘public interest’ clause to exempt the project from key provisions of the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA), 1994 that bans felling of trees from such a vast area for ecological reasons.
While activists have raised questions over the project being termed as a “public interest” one, DDA insists that the 18-hole golf course would be a public sports complex and hence should be considered a public interest project.
“This shrinkage of green cover is for no obvious public good, will increase pollution, urban heat, and impair people’s health,” said environmental lawyer Aditya N Prasad on whose petitions courts recently passed several tree protection orders.
A gazette notification issued in the name of Delhi’s Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and signed by the Capital’s environment secretary Sanjeev Kumar reads: “In public interest the government exempts an area of 46.06 hectares for re-development of Qutub Golf Course at Lado Sarai from sub-section (3) of section 9 of the DPTA.”
The sub-section denies permission to cut trees “from the same area twice in a year, subject to a maximum area of one hectare at a time.”
“This clause is key to checking cutting of trees in a big green area in a piecemeal manner. Can playing golf be of public interest?” asked Prasad.
But DDA, which applied for permission last year, said the golf course was definitely a public interest project. “Just like a shooting range, it (golf course) is also a public sports complex. We would take maximum care in ensuring that any green loss is compensated. We would rope in a highly-competent professional agency to transplant trees. It will be a world-class golf course Delhi will be proud of,” DDA vice chairman Balvinder Kumar told HT.
DDA had initially asked the forest department for permission to remove trees in the area to build a club house and redevelop the 100-hectare golf course built in 2000. But given the vast spread of the project area and the number of trees involved, the matter reached the highest levels.
Jung, who also heads DDA, approved the concept drawings of the project in October last year. “Resurfacing will start in April 2015 and end in October 2016. The club house will be ready by early 2017,” said a DDA official.