The Delhi forest department has once again issued a circular that trees be freed of concrete.
In a letter to various land-owning agencies in the Capital, the department has “requested” them to “issue appropriate directions” for deconcretisation of trees.
The letter has been sent to the three municipal corporations, Delhi Development Authority, New Delhi Municipal Council, public works department, Delhi Cantonment Board and National Highway Authority of India.
However, environmentalists feel such circulars will not help the cause. “There have been several court orders, besides central guidelines for de-choking of trees. Execution has been a worry,” said tree activist Aditya N Prasad.
On his petition, the national green tribunal on April 23 had asked authorities to free trees of cement in an effective and time-bound manner.
Hearing a petition filed by NGO Kalpvriksha, the Delhi High Court in 2007 had directed authorities to free trees of concrete. Two years later, the court, while hearing another petition filed by one SC Jain, ordered a survey in Delhi on the status and plans for de-concretisation.
The Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (1994) also has provisions for penal action for concretisation of trees.
During the hearing on April 23, the tribunal remarked, “Everybody issues circulars. Every department is good at this, but things have to be dealt at the ground level.”
But why has de-concretisation almost failed to take off in Delhi? “Concretisation is a fiscal drive. More concrete means more money to the contractors. Less use of cement entails more maintenance. So the practice has continued” said another tree activist.
“Engineers have no time to supervise and ensure during building of footpaths, contractors leave sufficient space around trees for water percolation. All site visits are on paper. The tender documents and training modules of construction agencies do not have green guidelines,” said another activist.
“Citizens are equally responsible. Many of us don’t like soil. It’s also a waste of parking space. We don’t want leaves to fall into our manicured gardens or polished driveways,” he said.
No wonder, about three weeks after the NGT order, trees in areas such Meera Bagh, Panchsheel Enclave, Sarvodaya Enclave, Aurobindo Marg, Mandir Marg and Delhi Cantonment remain choked.