The vaunted High Capacity Bus System (HCBS) project has dealt a fresh blow to the city's green cover. This time, scores of trees, many of which are half-a-century old, have been chopped or are marked for felling along the road intersecting Defence Colony and Lajpat Nagar.
Parts of the central verge here, which has sported a thick, tall trees for a long time, now stand bare with chopped trunks of uprooted trees stacked behind yellow HCBS boards lined up on the side of the road. Residents say this is a breach of trust on part of the proponents of the project, whom they had consulted two weeks ago to save several age-old trees in that stretch.
"Two weeks ago, we had a meeting with experts of the Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), which has designed the project, to communicate our concerns. They responded very positively and had promised several trees would be spared. A week later, we found that the same trees and some more were chopped," said Kokila Rangachari, a concerned resident of Defence Colony who has taken up the cause to save the green cover in this stretch of South Delhi.
According to Rangachari and her neighbours, the trees were chopped in the night, without the knowledge of the residents. "We had told them not to cut trees especially neem trees, here. We had suggested an alternative site down the road for their bus stop. That site does not have trees but a thick growth of bushes. It looks like our suggestions went in vain," she said.
Dr Geetam Tiwari of TRIPP refused comment and Professor Dinesh Mohan, head of the organisation, was not available. However, sources at the organisation confirmed that a meeting was held around two weeks ago with representatives from Defence Colony and members of Trees for Delhi, a consortium of NGOs formed against rampant tree felling in the Capital. However, sources claimed that trees, which the meeting decided would be unaffected, remained untouched.
"Thanks to this, now trees which have been standing tall in front of our homes for the past 50 years are gone. They said more trees will be planted as compensation, but that is hardly anything," Rangachari said.
After a lull of few months, Trees for Delhi has now again swung into action at this fresh assault on Delhi's greens. Letters of protest about the latest round of felling have been sent to the chief conservator of forests as well as the environment secretary.
After severe protests over the felling of trees on Josip Broz Tito Marg a few months ago, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had called members of Trees for Delhi for a meeting and assured them a Tree Authority would be formed to oversee requests for felling of trees.
The HCBS project, running from Ambedkar Nagar to Delhi Gate, has permission to fell around 1,800 trees. "The actual number of trees being felled, however, is much more. Developers are passing the blame on to contractors and labourers," said Parvinder Singh of NGO Toxics Link, a member organisation of Trees for Delhi.