The Delhi government’s public works department (PWD) had been maintaining that it never ordered felling of trees for the much-controversial road-widening project in Vasant Kunj.
In fact, the agency hadn’t even acknowledged the presence of any tree in the project area. But an affidavit filed by the project contractor before the national green tribunal has nailed the PWD’s lie.The affidavit says since October 2012, the contractor wrote at least 15 letters to the PWD, mostly referring to trees in the project area that needed to be cleared. The PWD told the contractor that there was no hindrance and that it should go ahead with the project.
The PWD also cited pressures from “higher authorities”, even referred to an inspection, and allegedly kept threatening the contractor to go ahead with the project immediately or face legal action. It was only in January 2013 that the agency acknowledged the presence of any tree.
On October 18 last year, for example, the contractor told the PWD that trees needed to be cleared for the project. On November 5, the PWD asked the contractor to commence work immediately, later threatening it with legal action if the project was not commenced within three days.
The affidavit mentioned how some trees were felled by unknown people, highlighted the protests by locals and action taken against the contractor by the police and forest department.
The contractor denied that it felled trees. But three government inspection reports say otherwise. The Dehradun-based Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) put the number of damaged or felled trees at 421.
The contractor said slum dwellers living around the road often cut trees. “The firm didn’t cut any tree, though trees were hindering the project,” it said and tendered “a heartfelt apology”.
The project started on December 15. Hearing a petition, the tribunal on April 9 this year ordered a stay on the project.
The matter would be heard next on July 23.