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Blame game begins over cutting of trees in Delhi

Sarojini Nagar, which is one of the seven neighbourhoods in south Delhi for the Centre’s redevelopment plan, stands to lose the maximum number of trees

delhi Updated: Jun 26, 2018 12:37 IST
Sweta Goswami and Joydeep Thakur
Sweta Goswami and Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi,Delhi news,Delhi trees
The Delhi high court on Monday stayed till July 4, the felling of more than 16,000 trees for redeveloping residential facilities for central government employees in south Delhi, questioning the Centre’s decision to issue the order. T(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

The Arvind Kejriwal government on Monday said it “will not allow” the cutting of 11,000 trees proposed for the Union government’s redevelopment project at Sarojini Nagar.

Delhi forest minister Imran Hussain on Monday wrote to lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal, urging him to “immediately stop” further cutting of trees in the areas that are undergoing construction work for the Centre’s plan to redevelop government colonies, until the entire project is investigated.

“In view of the seriousness of the matter and the fact that felling of trees may cause permanent loss, it is proposed that an immediate stoppage on further felling of trees in the GPRA (General Pool Residential Accommodation) colonies may be ordered till the issues are resolved,” Hussain said in his letter.

Sarojini Nagar, which is one of the seven neighbourhoods in south Delhi for the Centre’s redevelopment plan, stands to lose the maximum number of trees among the locations where the construction is scheduled to take place. At least 11,000 of the 13,128 trees that are meant to be cut are located here.

Hinting that the project is likely to hit a roadblock, the L-G’s office said on Monday it is one of the three projects for which state-owned real-estate company NBCC (India) Limited has not got any approval for tree cutting so far.

Sarojini Nagar does not have clearance from the forest department yet, and it will remain so,” said a Delhi government spokesperson.

PHASED DIVISION

Reports released by the government showed that a proposal for felling about 11,000 trees was first rejected by the forest department for the number being “too large.” A revised proposal was sent to cut 606 trees.

Divided over numbers - Box (Delhi Metro pg 2; Date: June 26, 2018) - Embed code inline script.
Divided over numbers
The exact number of trees that are supposed to be cut appears to vary, depending on who you ask. While the Environment Assessment Report states one number, the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs gives another. Meanwhile, the Delhi govt’s forest department says it has received requests to grant permission to cut another set of trees

Meanwhile, experts questioned the drastic “reduction” in the number of tree felling in Sarojini Nagar. They said it may be an effort to cut the same number of trees by simply dividing the damage in phases. “How did a permission seeking cutting of 11,000 trees get down to 606 in the first phase? They may just keep adding numbers in each phase. So, by the time the project gets over, I wonder if more than 11,000 trees will be cut. It will be a humongous task to monitor the actual number of trees that are finally brought down,” said activist Padmavati Dwivedi.

‘DISCREPANCIES’

To justify the Delhi government’s demand, the forest minister in his letter to the L-G stated that three projects which received a go ahead for tree felling had “serious discrepancies” in their implementation. For the projects at Netaji Nagar, Nauroji Nagar and Kidwai Nagar, the minister said the implementing agency flouted National Green Tribunal guidelines.

Hussain also blamed the state forest department, which comes under the Delhi government, for omitting portions of the green court’s pre-conditions in a notification that was issued to allow the tree felling.

“There appears, prima facie, laxity on the part of the department in ensuring compliance of the various conditions/stipulations mentioned in the various notifications. This calls for

thorough enquiry or investigation into the matter,” Hussain’s letter read.

First Published: Jun 26, 2018 12:36 IST