The Public Works Department (PWD) of the Delhi government illegally felled and damaged 39 trees for a road-widening project in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj.
In response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the Hindustan Times, the Delhi forest department said the PWD had in two separate applications sought felling of 167 trees. When the forest department denied permission, the PWD went ahead and hacked the trees.
The RTI reply also reveals that the PWD sought felling of trees without having a plan for compensatory afforestation. When asked to provide the quantum and location of land identified for afforestation, the reply says, "No land identified. No request (for identification of land) for this project under consideration."
Under the Delhi Preservation of Tree Act, 1994, the agency seeking deforestation has to ensure plantation of 10 saplings for each tree felled and provide non-forest land for the purpose.
The forest department has also disclosed that it has taken cognisance under the DPTA and lodged police complaints. It has, however, said it doesn't have information on the total number of trees needed to be felled for the project.
The National Green Tribunal has while hearing a petition filed by a local resident ordered an interim stay on the project till the next hearing slated for April 29. The tribunal also warned the Delhi government of strong action if further felling of trees took place.
Residents had alleged the PWD was widening a 3.5-km stretch from Andheria Mod towards Mahipalpur by demolishing colony boundaries and felling trees illegally.
The plan is to widen the road from 17.2 metres to 75-metres. On completion, this would be the Capital's widest road. The stretch being widened from four lanes to eight lanes has on its both flanks hundreds of flats in. When residents protested, the PWD stopped felling of trees but digging of soil continued for some time, leaving a number of trees with exposed roots.