In a U-turn of sorts, the Delhi forest department has allowed the felling of trees for construction of low-cost flats for urban poor in southwest Delhi, a “high-priority” project of the previous Congress government.
The department had last year refused permission when the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), builder of the project, had sought permission to cut 7,214 trees.
The department refused the per mission because it believed too many trees faced the axe.
The nod, given on February 3, comes after the DSIIDC reduced the number of trees proposed to be cut to 2,526. But even for the 2,526 trees, the forest department had on January 2 informed Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung that similar proposals had of late invited the wrath of environmentalists and the National Green Tribunal.
The forest department has, however, declined to accept a request of the corporation for exemption from carrying out the mandatory re-plantation. Because of fewer trees being proposed to be cut, the number of flats proposed to be built will also come down from 14,200 to 13,600.
“Of the 2,526 trees, spread in 4.28 acres, proposed to be cut, 293 are technically not trees because they are only 15cm in girth. We have allowed 2,233 trees to be cut with a condition that 22,330 saplings are planted as per a 1:10 ratio and maintained for five years. Plus, we will also replace the 293 thin trees with as many saplings,” said a senior forest department official.
Of the 22,623 saplings, the DSIIDC will raise 13,500, while the forest department will raise 9,123. Because of a shortage of land, the forest department will reduce the spacing between two saplings from the usual 3 metres to 2 metres.
Another decision that will affect adequate greening is that most areas where re-plantation will be taken up are already designated as green belts.
The project at Pooth Khurd village in Bawana had figured as top priority of the previous Congress government.
However, the then chief minister Sheila Dikshit kept struggling, during her tenures, to keep her election promise of rehabilitation of slum-dwellers under the Rajiv Rattan Awas Yojna.
The DSIIDC had to build 70,000 such houses across Delhi. But only 14,000 units could be readied. The Centre, the Delhi government and beneficiaries are supposed to share the cost of these houses. Rehabilitation of about 20 lakh people in 600odd slum clusters has been a key political issue.
Apart from Pooth Khurd, 3,600 units at Kanjhawala, and 8,420 at Tikri Kalan have also been proposed.