Over 1200 trees in Vasant Vihar deconcretised after Delhi HC directions

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
Apart from removing the concrete with machines, the corporation was also allowing residents and officials from embassies that are located in the area to clear the area around trees themselves. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
Apart from removing the concrete with machines, the corporation was also allowing residents and officials from embassies that are located in the area to clear the area around trees themselves. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
Updated on Nov 25, 2021 04:04 AM IST
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Acting on the order by the Delhi high court, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) removed concrete from around nearly 1,200 trees in Vasant Vihar, senior civic body officials said on Wednesday.

“Every day, we are removing cemented floors that have come up around trees in the area. Till now, we have already covered A to F blocks. We have been ordered by the court to remove maximum concrete from around trees by November 26, which is the next date of hearing,” said a senior SDMC official, asking not to be named.

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.

Senior SDMC officials on Wednesday said that since the ban on construction and demolition was lifted by the Delhi government on November 22, the department has deconcretised nearly 1,200 trees in the neighbourhood. They cemented pavements, parking spaces have come up around most trees.

During a spot check at Vasant Vihar F-block on Wednesday, civic officials told HT that they were facing abuses and threats by local residents who allegedly encroached upon public land, and placed concrete around trees on the streets.

“For the last few days many residents have come and threatened to file cases against us, some have also screamed and hurled abuses at us. We have now called the police force for the protection of our staff,” said an SDMC official who led the deconcretisation drive on Wednesday.

Apart from removing the concrete with machines, the corporation was also allowing residents and officials from embassies that are located in the area to clear the area around trees themselves.

“Some embassies and residents requested that they be allowed to remove the concrete around the trees on their driveways. We have marked the area, and given them two days to clear it,” the official said.

An elderly resident of the area, who asked not to be named, was seen measuring the area around the trees that were deconcretised by the SDMC officials. She alleged that the civic body teams “damaged” driveways and were removing cement beyond the one-metre radius around the trees as prescribed by the courts. In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) did not just ban concretisation of the base of trees within a radius of one metre, but also asked the authorities not to dig the road within one metre of a tree.

“The court has said that the area within a radius of one metre around the trees cannot be concretised, but they (civic body) are damaging the entire area mindlessly. There is a sewer line below the driveway that can be damaged. Plus, after breaking the cement slabs with heavy machines, they are making labourers remove the debris. They are digging the roots of trees. This will kill the tree anyway,” she said.

Vallari Sheel, an environmental scientist and urban ecologist, who also spearheaded the trees census in Vasant Vihar, said the primary aim of the census was to understand the health of street trees in the locality and to get the agencies rectify the problems.

“It is good that action is being taken. This was the primary aim behind conducting the census. Tree census is important to create awareness among residents, but it also helps create a database for agencies and help them take action against violations, just like it is being done now. With the action being taken here, Vasant Vihar can become a model colony. Tree census should be conducted across the Capital and based on its findings, agencies should take action,” Sheel said.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021