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Delhi gets its Chipko moment as high court freezes cutting of trees

The Delhi high court asked if the national Capital could afford cutting of trees for the development of roads and buildings.

delhi Updated: Jun 25, 2018 22:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi high court,Trees Delhi,South Delhi development projects
People hug a tree as they protest against the cutting of trees at Sarojini Nagar in New Delhi.(Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

The Delhi high court on Monday stayed till July 4 the cutting 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.

“Can Delhi afford to cut of trees for the development of roads and buildings?” the court asked NBCC (India) Ltd, the state-owned real estate company which is redeveloping the seven colonies.

The high court will hear the matter next on July 4 and the National Green Tribunal will hear the case on July 2.

The permission to cut the trees led to a political blame game between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Union government as thousands of people in Sarojini Nagar on Sunday protested the Centre’s decision to cut the trees.

The AAP’s spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said the environment clearance for the project was given by the Union environment and forest ministry in November 2017 and the final approval was given by Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.

The state environment and forest minister Imran Hussain, he said, raised objections and asked the forest department to check whether the number of trees to be felled could be reduced and some could be translocated,

The Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, blamed the AAP government for politicising the issue, saying its own minister gave the approval for tree felling.

Officials from Baijal’s office said that proposals do not reach the L-G for approval unless it is cleared and recommended by the ministers, in this case, the environment minister.

The Delhi government’s forest department had given the go-ahead for felling at least 16,500 fully-grown trees in the seven neighbourhoods. A statement issued by the Union urban and housing affairs ministry on Thursday claimed that only 14,031 trees are to be cut.

The environment impact assessment clearance for the projects shows that 11,000 out of 13,128 trees will be cut in Sarojini Nagar, 1,465 out of 1,513 in Nauroji Nagar, 3,033 out of l 3,906 in Netaji Nagar and another 520 in Kasturba Nagar. The figures for RK Puram are yet to be released.

In smaller neighbourhoods such as Thyagaraja Nagar and Mohammadpur, also in South Delhi, 108 and 447 trees will be cut for the project, according to the EIA clearance.

These neighbourhoods, with low-intensity government housing and green, shaded avenues, serve as the lungs of South Delhi.

(An earlier version of the story said the High Court’s stay still is July 2.)

First Published: Jun 25, 2018 12:42 IST