Forest dept investigates complaint of fresh encroachments in Southern Ridge

Updated on Jul 04, 2022 12:34 AM IST

In the complaint, Akash Vashishtha, who is an environmental activist and lawyer, said fresh constructions are being undertaken at these two locations, for which trees are being felled. The ecology of the southern ridge is deteriorating due to these encroachments, states the complaint.

Under the orders of the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is in the process of restoring Neela Hauz, a large pond in south Delhi. By March 2013, it is scheduled to complete the work that involves removing weed and hyacinth infestation, dredging, planting local trees and shrubs and constructing walking tracks. (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times)
Under the orders of the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is in the process of restoring Neela Hauz, a large pond in south Delhi. By March 2013, it is scheduled to complete the work that involves removing weed and hyacinth infestation, dredging, planting local trees and shrubs and constructing walking tracks. (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

The Delhi’s forest and wildlife department is investigating a complaint lodged by an environmental activist, who has alleged that fresh encroachments are coming up across Sangam Vihar and Devli, which form a part of the Southern Ridge.

In the complaint, Akash Vashishtha, who is an environmental activist and lawyer, said fresh constructions are being undertaken at these two locations, for which trees are being felled. The ecology of the southern ridge is deteriorating due to these encroachments, states the complaint.

The activist shared photographs of ongoing constructions in the area along with their geo-coordinates with the forest department, stating that despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court expressing concern with regard to forest encroachments, rampant constructions are still going on across Delhi’s ridge areas.

“We have shared photographs with time stamps, the latitude and longitude...there are multiple houses and multi-storey buildings currently being constructed. Work is still underway, so the forest department can easily stop it and catch the violators,” Vashishtha told HT.

An official from the forest department probing the complaint said, “Primarily, we do not feel that these are fresh encroachments or construction has recently been undertaken in the forest land. However, we are still investigating the complaint. Action will be taken if we find any fresh structures.”

The forest department has been carrying out an anti-encroachment drive in the southern ridge since 2018, following an NGT order in 2015 in the matter Sonya Ghosh v Govt of NCT Of Delhi & Ors, wherein Ghosh had petitioned for removal of all illegal encroachments occupying the southern ridge.

In May, HT reported how nearly 4,500 hectares or around 70% of the southern ridge have been made free of encroachments with the area now fully notified as a forest under Section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Another 1,000 hectares is slated to be notified under phase-II, after all pending court cases are resolved, while around 350 hectares of the southern ridge is still under encroachment – largely in densely populated areas such as Devli.

“We have been undertaking the encroachment removal drive in different areas but specially focussing on 19 villages.For the densely populated areas, we will require greater enforcement. People will also have to be rehabilitated first before action can be taken,” said the forest official.

The 19 villages falling adjacent to the southern ridge, from where encroachments have been removed over the last four years, includes Tughlakabad, Rajpur Khurd, Chattarpur, Dera Mandi, Jaunapur, Ayanagar, Satbari, Saidulajab, Maidangarhi, Neb Sarai, Asola, Bhati, Rangpuri, Sahurpur, Devli, Rajokri, Ghitorni, Mahipalpur and Pul Pehladpur.

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