PWD told to stop revamp on Ring Road stretch
The Delhi forest department has asked the agency to stop work on redesigning a portion of Ring Road between Moti Bagh and Mayapuri, a project that is part of an ambitious state government plan to convert over 500km of the city’s roads on the lines of those in European countries.
“...It was found that violations under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, has been done by executive engineer (north/west), PWD, at Road-I, Brar Square, Ring Road and Moti Bagh...it is hereby directed to stop all work till proceedings under DPTA is completed by south forest division,” read a notice issued to PWD on March 12 by deputy conservator forests (south division) Amit Anand.
Senior forest department officials said the notice was issued after a complaint regarding digging and trenching on the stretch was forwarded to the south division from the west division, saying that work around the trees was damaging their roots.
Ring Road also features in the original list of areas identified as deemed forest land in an affidavit submitted by the Delhi forest department in 1997 before the Supreme Court in the TN Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India case.
In Delhi’s context, “an area above 2.5 acres having a density of 100 trees per acre as well as stretches along roads and drains having a length of one kilometre,” are considered ‘deemed forests’, according to the affidavit.
For any “non-forest related activity” to take place in such an area, permissions have to be sought from the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change under the Forest Conservation Act (1980).
A senior PWD official said the work for which the notice was served by the forest department is part of Delhi government’s ‘redesigning and street-scaping of roads’ project. The official said objections have been raised for work taking place between the Moti Bagh and Mayapuri stretch of the revamp.
“There is no violation on our part, and we were executing our work following all the guidelines. Forest department officials did not visit the spot to check if there were any violations. They directly served a work stop notice. Following the directions, work on the project at the stretch has been stopped,” the PWD official said, requesting anonymity.
He added that the stretch is one of nine that are to be redesigned on a pilot basis. In January this year, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal conducted a review meeting and directed officials to finish the project by 2023.
The official said under the project, road geometry is to be improved along with enhancing its aesthetics and introducing user facilities like kiosks, benches, decorative lights and water ATMs on the roadside.
The PWD official said the project aims not only at making streets look more appealing, but also envisions to make them more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly.