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Concretisation of trees is worst kind of human rights abuse: Delhi HC

Nov 27, 2021 03:27 AM IST

HT reported in December last year that of the total 4,993 trees on the streets of Vasant Vihar, 3,859 were heavily concretised. A tree census conducted by local residents showed over 450 trees had nails, tree guards, barbed wires etc. in or around them

Coming down heavily on the concretisation of trees and rampant construction in the national capital, the Delhi high court on Friday said these activities were changing neighbourhoods and making people feel like aliens in their own environment. It is the “worst kind of human rights abuse”, the court said.

Concrete flooring around tress being removed by SDMC, at Vasant Vihar after the Delhi high court order. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
Concrete flooring around tress being removed by SDMC, at Vasant Vihar after the Delhi high court order. (Amal KS/HT Photo)

“You are changing people’s neighbourhoods. They become alien in their own environment and that is the worst kind of human rights abuse. Citizens will not be pushed back because the corporation is not working on it. Every day, it is the same position in every colony,” justice Najmi Waziri said, while hearing a plea against the concretisation of hundreds of trees in Vasant Vihar.

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The judge said a fully grown tree “is worth a crore”, but for the citizens a tree is greater than its monetary value.

Stating that the absence of trees changes the neighbourhood, Waziri narrated an anecdote, “Ordinary citizen, or a lady who has lived in a colony for 50 years…She used to get up and see the tree every day. But it gets chopped off, or becomes ill because some contractor of the MCD comes and concretes it up to the tree trunk.There is no water, no air, no nitrogen...the tree dries up and in one aandhi (storm), it is blown away. That neighbourhood is not the same for the lady; for the children.”

“This is no more a joke. The symbiotic relationship is far too extensive. We can’t do without it (trees). We don’t want only to concretise the city. You can’t take care, you tell us. RWA will take care. I am confident that any number of RWAs is ready to take it up,” the court said.

The court was hearing a plea by a resident against the concreting of hundreds of trees in Vasant Vihar and alleged inaction on the part of the authorities to preserve trees. The plea also cited non-compliance of earlier orders passed by the high court as well as the National Green Tribunal.

HT reported in December last year that of the total 4,993 trees on the streets of Vasant Vihar, 3,859 were heavily concretised. A tree census conducted by local residents showed over 450 trees had nails, tree guards, barbed wires etc. in or around them, 764 trees were lopped off and at least 793 trees were infested with termites. Based on HT’s report a complaint was filed with the Delhi forest department by environmental activists, and a petition was also filed at the Delhi high court. The report has also been quoted in the petition.

The counsels for the authorities on Friday said they have taken several steps for the de-concretisation of trees.

During the hearing, the court also pulled up the authorities after it perused pictures of trees given by the authorities. It took strong exception to cars parked on the pavement and said pavements are for citizens to walk on.

“Is the car not an obstacle, sir? Then what were you doing? Give me an answer which is worthy of making a submission in the court...You have done nothing, therefore you are in contempt... You are an officer of the government? Law officer? Is this the answer you want to give us that we will not comply with the court’s orders,” Justice Waziri told the corporation counsel.

Asking whether there is no sense of urgency for citizens rights, the judge said, “Look at the condition. Do you have no concern for your immediate neighbour, elderly gentleman who wants to go for a walk. How will he go for the walk? Look at the footpath... Every portion of it has been just concretised... Who comes first? Citizens and their rights, not the gadiwalas.”

A court passed a slew of directions but a detailed copy of the order is yet to be uploaded on the high court’s website.

The matter will next be heard on Monday.

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