The National Green Tribunal has held Delhi's Public Works Department (PWD) guilty of "illegally felling a large number of grown trees" for a road-widening project in Vasant Kunj.
"It is obvious that the trees have been felled without the forest department permission… it is also a damage to the environment. This amounts to contempt at the very threshold," the tribunal said on Monday.
The tribunal will now pronounce the quantum of fine to be levied on the PWD, its contractor as well as the Delhi government. The matter will be next heard on May 28.
"We make it clear that whatever costs of compensation we award shall be payable by the authorities concerned of the PWD, the contractor who has without authorisation and illegally removed the trees and proportionately by the government itself," the tribunal ruled.
An expert team formed by the tribunal has begun its inspection to ascertain the actual damage caused to greenery in the south Delhi colony. Based on the expert team's report, which is to be filed by Monday, the tribunal will also explore the possibility of relocation of trees in the same area, which are damaged but not completely uprooted.
The tribunal would decide the extent of compensatory afforestation needed and whether the remaining part of the project can be altered to save as many trees as possible.
PWD executive engineer Kamal Singh, who first said no trees were felled and later apologised for the same, has assured all directions issued by the tribunal would be carried out without default or delay.
The road-widening project is aimed at widening a 3.5-km stretch road from Andheria Mode towards Mahipalpur from the current 16 to 30 metres to 75-metres. It started in the south Delhi colony on December 15 last year. In a three-part series on March 5, 6 and 7, HT highlighted how the PWD began widening the road by felling trees illegally.
Hearing a petition, the tribunal on April 9 this year ordered an interim stay which continues to remain in force. About 70 per cent of work remains to be completed. The PWD's plan is to widen the stretch from four lanes to eight lanes, making it the Capital's widest road.