For its road widening project in Vasant Kunj, the Public Works Department (PWD) illegally removed 267 trees and damaged 154 more, said the Dehradun-based Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE). The ICFRE on Wednesday submitted its report before the national green tribunal (NGT) and put the cost to be incurred on compensatory plantation at R74 lakh.
The tribunal said the report shows alarming misdeeds by the PWD and its contractor, who had earlier said no trees had been felled for the project. They would now have to explain, by July 15, why they should not be punished for lying.
The ICFRE also said nowhere at the site had the PWD demarcated the proposed alignment of the road, which is to be widened. "Some areas are still under the possession of private land owners. The entire stretch in question is 2.91 km long," the report said.
Additionally, 25 trees have been cut at a nearby site. The tribunal had asked the ICFRE to inspect the site and submit a report. The council said there was an urgent need to protect damaged trees by putting soil over exposed roots. "No stumps were found and it is likely they were taken away from the site," the report said.
The tribunal had earlier held the PWD guilty of "illegally felling a large number of grown-up trees" for the project.
"It is obvious that the trees have been felled without the forest department's permission," the tribunal had said. The tribunal has also said it will pronounce the quantum of fine to be levied on the PWD, its contractor as well as on the Delhi government.
The project is aimed at widening a road stretch from Andheria Mod towards Mahipalpur from the current 16-30m to 75m. Hearing a petition, the tribunal on April 9 had ordered a stay on the project. About 70 per cent of work remains to be completed.
Project not approved byplanning body
The Public Works Department (PWD) has reapplied for felling of trees for the Vasant Kunj road widening project. The national green tribunal on Wednesday told the forest department to consider the application on merit but final approval will be granted only by the tribunal.
Interestingly, the PWD did not have sanction from the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) for the project, even six months after the project started. The project has now become controversial because of illegal felling of trees.
Responding to a right to information application on June 17, UTTIPEC, the apex planning body in Delhi, said the PWD has not submitted the final proposal of the project for approval. The project started on December 15.
The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, which submitted its inspection report to the green tribunal, also said: “No specific demarcation of alignment has been made by the PWD on ground. PWD says a modified plan has been submitted to UTTIPEC for in-principal approval but couldn’t show any approved or modified plan.”
A joint inspection by the PWD and the forest department had also told the tribunal that no details were found to suggest the project had UTTIPEC’s sanction.