The National Green Tribunal on Monday asked amicus curiae Raj Panjwani, who assists courts in conservation issues, to file a petition against Delhi government's failure to protect the Ridge forest, known as Delhi's lung.
The tribunal gave its direction when Panjwani pointed out a major conflict of interest in the Ridge Management Board (RMB) which has allowed constant shrinking of the scrub forest that protects the capital from environmental hazards.
A petition from the amicus curiae will allow the tribunal hear the matter as a case and pass orders because there is no formal petitioner otherwise.
State is the biggest requisitioner of forest land for infrastructure projects. Delhi's chief secretary, who is government's senior most bureaucrat, heads the RMB. Hindustan Times had on September 10 reported that environmentalists feel he is often a judge in his own cause, making the board a land diversion agency.
RMB decisions do go to a central empowered committee (CEC) for final approval. But the problem is CEC doesn't reject any proposal.
As reported by HT on September 9, Panjwani informed the tribunal that the Delhi government has picked a particularly green 7.1-acre patch of the Ridge at Chattarpur to build a 225-bed hospital, and has asked the RMB for clearance.
The RMB will also consider a proposal to widen a dirt track to a 100-foot-wide road, which will serve as an approach to the hospital.
Also at risk is a water body located close to the project site.
Panjwani on Monday informed the tribunal: "RMB under its constitution has no right to divert forest land. All such proposals should go to the Forest Advisory Committee of the union ministry of environment and forests."