The South Delhi Municipal Corporation on Saturday surveyed more than 100 houses built illegally on forestland in the Neb Sarai area and sealed 10 of them. The forest department, on its part, issued 40 notices, ordering the occupants to vacate the premises. Action is likely to continue.
The authorities swung into action only after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday had ordered Delhi's two top officials — chief secretary and chief conservator of forests — to appear before it next Tuesday.
While issuing the summons, the NGT had noted, "On March 24, we had ordered to fix the boundary of forestland notified way back in 1996, but nothing was done. The direction to seal the encroached premises was also not followed. We have no other options but direct the two officers to be present in the tribunal and explain the reason for such a long delay [in demarcation of boundary] of more than 18 years."
Following the order, the corporation hurriedly wrote to the deputy commissioner of police (south) the same day and sought his assistance for a joint sealing drive on Saturday and Monday.
On Friday, the head of Delhi forest department, GN Sinha, also wrote to the government counsel, saying orders for encroachment removal had been issued and a request to exempt the two officers from personal appearance may be made to the tribunal.
On March 24, the NGT had ordered, "Officials will immediately ask occupants to vacate the premises and seal all unauthorised constructions, including houses, with help from police. The police will ensure the encroachers do not re-enter the sealed premises."
The NGT had ordered the government to demarcate forestland in Neb Sarai area in two weeks and then remove all unauthorised constructions. The government notified the area as part of Ridge in 1996 following Supreme Court orders. But the boundary has not been fixed yet.
The NGT had ordered the police to ensure that the orders are followed by acting against those resisting encroachment removal and filing a status report is filed by Thursday. But this was not done.
The tribunal is hearing a petition from a local resident, Pavit Singh. His lawyer Rahul Choudhary told HT, "There are several houses, some multi-storey, in the area. Additionally vacant forest land has also been encroached in the vicinity."
In an earlier hearing, the corporation had admitted that it had pasted a sealing notice on the properties, but the occupants had removed the seal, continued living and carried out more constructions.
The forest department had said it had complained to the police and no further action in the form of investigation was taken, even though an FIR was lodged.
The petitioner had also said the flats had been built on forest land and the authorities did not take any action.