Though the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is confident that it will complete the third phase of Metro expansion on time, green concerns may pose serious hurdles.
The Centre has requested the Delhi government to reduce the number of trees to be planted for each tree felled from the standard 10 to now three or four. But the Delhi government thinks such a huge concession will mean a massive reduction of the Capital's green cover.
"We're preparing a reply. Metro expansion is needed but not at such a cost. Trees planted under compensatory plantation take time to grow. If we tinker with 1:10 ratio, the Capital will lose a massive chunk of green for a long time," a senior Delhi government official said.
In a letter dated December 24, union urban development minister Kamal Nath had requested Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to allow the concession. "…DMRC has proposed to reduce the number of trees needed to be planted for every tree felled from 10 to 3/4, as seen in other states such as Goa, in view of non-availability of land in Delhi," the letter reads.
"I will be grateful if you could direct your officials to expedite tree cutting permission and reduce the number of trees needed be planted so that the Phase III could be completed expeditiously," the minister asked Dikshit.
The letter acknowledges that 8,001 trees need to be felled for the project and 40,000 hectares needed for compensatory plantation. "Of the 70 hectares of land provided by Delhi Development Authority, only 17 hectares are suitable for plantation… Ownership issues also exist," the letter reads.
"We have always stuck to compensatory plantation in ratio of 1:10 under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act. DMRC has provided funds for such plantations and maintenance of trees in its earlier phases as well. We may work out a solution but the Capital's green will not be compromised," said the Delhi government official.
Several reviews have been carried out to bring down the number of trees once understood to be around 16,000. The forest department of the Delhi government has been reluctant to allow felling of such a huge number of trees. The DMRC had felled 36,025 trees in phase I and II. Construction of some lines is delayed but DMRC is confident of rolling out all corridors under Phase-III in phases by March 2016 as planned.