Delhi Metro has hit a green hurdle almost a year after it started construction for Phase 3 of its network. Of a total of roughly 16,000 trees that needed to be felled for the expansion, the forest department has given permission to cut only 3,700 trees.
DM Shukla, chief conservator of forest, Delhi government, said, "DMRC has not yet fulfilled some statutory requirements such as forest clearance, getting no objection certificates from DDA and signing MoU with the Defence ministry for land use."
But sources said unavailability of suitable land for afforestation is also one of the reasons for the roadblock. The forest department had requested the DMRC to identify lands for afforestation. According to a senior official, restoration of Aravali hills is also going on for the same. The compensatory afforestation for trees cut for the 140-km phase 3 would require 125 acres of land.
DMRC sources said they would pay R45 crore for compensatory afforestation and plant 10 trees for each tree felled.
Areas that are set to lose green cover include RK Puram, Kalkaji, Janakpuri, NH 8, Delhi border, Mukundpur, Shalimar Bagh, Bhikaji Cama Place, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Vinod Nagar, Yamuna Vihar, ITO, Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid and Red Fort.
To expedite the construction process, Delhi Metro has taken up the matter with the government for an early approval. According to them, they will complete the construction within four years if permission is granted soon.
"We always keep some additional time for finalising issues such as land, tree felling and legal proceedings. We are still hopeful that we will be able to finish the construction work within the stipulated deadline" said Anuj Dayal, spokesperson of DMRC.
Environmentalists, however, have raised objections. "Afforestation outside the borders of Delhi would not be of much use for the city. Afforestation should be done near the areas where trees would be cut," said Diwan Singh, an environmental activist of Ridge Bachao Andolan, an NGO.The 65-km phase 1 saw felling of 13,000 trees while the 125-km phase 2 saw felling of 21,000 trees.