The brazen felling of trees without permission for the road-widening project in Vasant Kunj exposes the seriousness of the authorities in protecting Delhi’s cover.
Nearly 50 trees have been illegally felled and nearly a 1,000 are allegedly in line to face the axe but the officials concerned are either maintaining a studied silence or shamelessly passing the buck. Residents were also not taken into confidence while implementing a project that affects their lives. HT's posers to forest dept
Trees have been felled earlier also — the airport and the Metro are some big examples — but the way the authorities have gone about the whole project speaks volumes about their attitude.
Though felling of trees stopped after protests by residents and activists but constant digging for the road-widening project exposed roots of trees. Without soil support they may fall gradually. Sunil Saxena/HT photo
And this is just 3.5km of the road that stretches from Andheria Mod towards Mahipalpur.
When the felling started, residents and activists went up in arms. As the chorus grew, felling was stopped and the Public Works Department (PWD), the agency responsible for execution of the project, shifted the blame to the contractor.
Though cutting stopped, the digging of soil continued, leaving a number of trees with exposed roots and without any soil support.
“Doing this is as good as felling them (trees). We have counted about 1,000 trees that would have to be felled for this project. Going by the 10-times compensatory norm, 10,000 trees will have to be planted. We understand that non-forest land was not identified for replantation when the felling began,” said a Vasant Kunj resident.
Mukul Chaturvedi, another resident, said, “We are protesting the destruction of trees not just because we love them but also because the green cover cuts noise pollution and gives a sense of privacy to the residents. It took years for this green cover to develop and most of it is because of the hard work of the residents.”
It’s ironical that while the government has drafted a number of residents from Vasant Kunj for its much-delayed tree census project, the same residents are running from pillar to post to save trees in their own backyard.
The residents are now using their tree census experience to save whatever green cover they can in this protect.
A construction 8 lane road at Vasnt Kunj, in New Delhi. PWD pruned many trees to make 8 lane road within the stretch of Chhatarpur metro to MahipalPur. Sunil Saxena/HT photo
“We worked tirelessly for a couple of Sundays. We hired a painter and marked all the trees that we felt could be felt for the road widening project. We found the numbers exceed a thousand. We did so because we were suspicious of official versions that only 60-70 trees would be cut. Our point is why cannot the government go about all this in a transparent manner,” he said.
“We had earlier also numbered trees in our colonies and are extra vigilant. But to our chagrin, we realize that every morning, many of the numbered trees disappear,” he said.
‘Wide road will benefit the residents, ease jams’
AK Mehta, Former chairman, Federation of RWAs, Vasant Kunj
I was chairman of the Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj from 2004 to 2012. It was during my tenure that we fought for getting this road widened to ease traffic jams. We demanded two service lanes on both sides for inter-pocket movement of traffic.
Objections by several people notwithstanding, the project will benefit the residents a lot. Environmentalists have some unfounded apprehensions. Development should never be opposed. Lots of trees were cut to construct flats in Vasant Kunj. But later, replantation was done. The current quantum of green cover is several times greater now.
We should ask the Public Works Department to ensure proper lighting, plantation on the road, footpath, side lanes and central verge.
Traffic chaos on road in front of Vasant Valley School at Vasant Kunj, Delhi. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times)
We must ask the PWD to ensure the boundary walls and colony gates are least disturbed. Wherever it is to be demolished, the PWD should rebuild it at its own cost.
Trees should be planted on both sides of the two service lanes at every 10 metres. The types of trees should be local, pollution absorbent and environment friendly such as Peepal, Neem, Pilkhan, Gular, Bargad, and Maulshri.
This road is approximately 3.5-km-long and a total of 665 trees each can be planted on either side. A total of 666 trees can be planted on both sides of the footpath. The central verge, in its current planned form, can have 6,300 shrubs.
(as told to Darpan Singh)