Forest department serves notice to hospital for illegal felling, pruning of trees
The Delhi forest department has issued a show-cause to Escorts Hospital in south-east Delhi’s Okhla for ‘illegal felling, heavy pruning and heading back’ (removing of terminal branches) of at least 15 full-grown trees in its compound without any permission.
According to forest officials, a tree officer from the department inspected the hospital compound on Friday after a Delhi-based environment activist filed a complaint.
Some of the trees at the entrance of the hospital have been left with either a sparse canopy and just stumps of removed branches while a few others have their trunks exposed, the officials said, adding the act violates sections of the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA), 1994.
The hospital denied any illegal felling. “No notice has been received yet...no illegal felling/pruning of trees has been done...Only some pruning work was undertaken as part of routine maintenance of green belt and driveway area of hospital for safe and clear movement of ambulances in emergent situations,” Fortis Escorts Heart Institute said in statement. “We will submit all required details to the forest department whenever called upon to do so....”
Deputy conservator of forest (South) Amit Anand said the notice was served on Monday. “Officials from the hospital management have been summoned to appear for a hearing in the matter on September 24. As per an initial assessment, around 15 trees have been damaged within the compound.”
“Heavy pruning, ‘heading back’ and felling of trees without permission is an offence under the DPTA. Appropriate action will be taken after necessary proceedings,” Anand said.
Verhaen Khanna, the activist on whose complaint the inspection was carried out, said even for light pruning, any agency, public or private, has to seek the forest department’s permission .
The compound mostly has ficus species such as peepal, about 20-30 feet tall, which have been heavily pruned with heavy green branches being cut. There are some jamun and neem trees as well.
“A tree cover is most essential for a hospital, which helps to cut down on air pollution levels. Besides, reducing the foliage will affect the birds and insects that live on the trees. The trees have been damaged and no permission was sought from the relevant authorities,” said Khanna.
Any public or private entity wanting to get trees pruned in its premises has to seek permission from the forest department. After getting the nod, the task is carried out by the horticulture department of the land-owning agency such as the municipal corporation or any other department.
C R Babu, professor emeritus at the Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Ecosystems at Delhi University, said, “Heading back is taken up only when a tree has grown too large and can cause damage by falling on the immediate surroundings. Besides, ficus species can survive heavy pruning and pollarding, as new shoots grow into it.”
“However, it is done only when the crown of the tree becomes too heavy and there is a fear of it being uprooted at any time, for which a prior assessment has to be done by a tree officer. In case of native trees such as jamun, the tree may get damaged in this process,” said Babu.
This the third such instance of trees being damaged in the capital in the last two months. In August, the forest department issued several orders to the Station Area, Indian Army, at Delhi Cantonment for damaging over 40 trees along Ring Road while constructing a boundary wall.
Earlier this month, the department issued ‘stop work’ order to the public works department for concretising around 30 trees at Meera Marg, Lodhi Colony, while constructing a drain.