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1713 trees to make way for new exhibition centre at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan

Implementation agency for Pragati Maidan redevelopment has said that they will plant 10 times the trees felled. However, environmentalists have raised concern, saying that around 15 000 trees felled in the Capital in last three years,

delhi Updated: Jul 06, 2017 16:42 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,Pragati Maidan,exhibition centre at Pragati Maidan
The Cabinet has approved the proposal to redevelop Pragati Maidan by setting up a world class integrated exhibition-cum-convention centre. The total cost has been estimated to be around Rs 2,254 crore.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

More than 1700 trees may be felled to give way to the integrated exhibition-cum-convention centre at Pragati Maidan, a RTI query has revealed.

“As many as 1713 trees have been identified for felling for the project. We have already issued permission as per the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act. The required fees has been deposited,” said a senior official of the state forest department.

It was in January this year that the Cabinet approved the proposal to redevelop Pragati Maidan by setting up a world class integrated exhibition-cum-convention centre. The total cost has been estimated to be around Rs 2,254 crore.

Work has already started and several structures, such as the iconic Hall of Nations have already been demolished. The RTI regarding tree felling was filed by an advocate Aditya Prasad.

Environment activists have already raised concerns as more than 15000 trees have been felled in the capital over the last three years. While more than 6000 were cut in 2014-15, around 4600 and 4700 trees were felled in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

“This is a horror story. Pragati Maidan, as I know it, is full of old Pilkhan trees, some of them as old as 60 years. Had there been a place of worship here could they have razed it? Do the planners know the value of these trees?” said Pradip Krishen, Indian filmmaker and environmentalist.

An estimate made by US researchers has revealed that a tree on an average absorbs more than 20 kilograms of carbon dioxide every year. And by the time it reaches the age of 40, it can sequester up to around one ton of carbon dioxide.

In pictures: Pragati Maidan in the process of a historic facelift

Earlier this week a group of residents and green activists managed to stall the felling of around nine trees near Aurobindo Marg in south Delhi. The trees were being felled to ease traffic snarls. Later, on Tuesday environment minister Imran Hussain issued a stop work order after meeting some of the residents.

“We would be planting 10 times the number of trees that we are going to cut. While some of the saplings would be planted inside the premises, the rest would be planted in the O Zone of Delhi Development Authority which comprises the river front of Yamuna,” said a senior official of National Building Construction Corporation (India) Limited, the implementing agency of the Pragati Maidan redevelopment project.

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The Delhi Preservation of Trees Act of 1994 provides for compensatory plantation in the ratio of 1:10 in case of felling and 1:5 in case of transplantation of a tree.

Out of 10 saplings, five are planted and maintained by forest department on degraded forest land and gaon sabha land and others available with the department. The other five saplings are planted and maintained by the user agency.

But activists don’t seem to be satisfied with these equations.

“Chopping full grown trees and planting saplings has become a norm to give permission to infrastructure projects. The saplings would take years to give the same benefit as a full grown tree. It is high time we build around full grown trees,” said Padmavati Dwivedi, a green activist and popularly known as Delhi’s tree census lady.

Activists have also raised questions about the future of the newly planted saplings as there is hardly any monitoring on how many of the saplings actually survive.

“Every year the state government and other agencies plant lakhs of saplings. Delhi would have become a forest by now had they survived,” said Krishen.

At least 15000 trees were felled in Delhi in the last three years to make way for projects

First Published: Jul 06, 2017 16:42 IST