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Delhi prefers concrete to trees

In 2013, the NGT had not just banned the concretisation of the base of trees within a radius of one metre but had even asked the authorities not to dig the road within one metres of the tree.

delhi Updated: May 16, 2019 05:58 IST
Joydeep Thakur and
Joydeep Thakur and
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi,Delhi University,Professor
In Mayur Vihar-Phase I, a drain is being rebuilt along with the footpath on one side of Shashi Park Road.(HT Photo)

More than six years ago on April 23, 2013, the National Green Tribunal had banned the concretisation of the baseof trees in Delhi and had directed authorities to take precaution while constructing roads and footpaths.

But the ban continues to be violated even today.

A survey of trees on city roads and footpaths by Hindustan Times found that the agencies have paid little heed to the warning by the green tribunal. “Even after successive affidavits being filed by the civic agencies, implementation of the order remains a challenge on the ground,” said Aditya Prasad, environment lawyer, based on whose petition the NGT had issued the order in 2013.

In Mayur Vihar-Phase I, a drain is being rebuilt along with the footpath on one side of Shashi Park Road. But little has been done to enforce the tribunal’s six-year-old order. While the concretisation is being done without leaving the one metre space around the tree as mandated by the NGT, in some cases the roots of some trees have been left bare.

In 2013, the NGT had not just banned the concretisation of the base of trees within a radius of one metre but had even asked the authorities not to dig the road within one metres of the tree.

“We are not building any footpath. The drain is being rebuilt. Care is being taken not to cut down, uproot any tree or even damage them. We will have to check on the ground if there is any violation and take action accordingly ,” said Bipin Bihari Singh, east Delhi mayor.

Experts said concretisation is extremely harmful for trees as it stops the flow of water, air and nutrients which the tree need to develop. Without these the tree would be either growing in an unhealthy manner, have a stunted growth, or can even die.

“The roots need air to breathe. They require water and nutrients. As rain water trickle down along the main stem it carries a lot of nutrients. This is called canopy leaching. This water is needed by the tree to flourish. But because of concretisation it cant reach the roots. Even though the government has well maintained the avenue trees, many trees in the interior roads, lanes and by-lanes in residential areas are still concretised. It is a clear violation,” said CR Babu, professor emeritus and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem (CEMDE) at Delhi University.

A tree with its base fully concretised can be spotted inside the Akshardham Metro station campus. A dead tree, with its base concretised, was also spotted near ITO. Several such cases were found on other roads and footpaths across Delhi, including near IIT Delhi metro station.

“DMRC has issued necessary guidelines in this regard to the contractors and the same are being followed in all locations. We do not expect any violation but in case there is, we shall certainly look into them and take necessary measures,” said a DMRC spokesman.

Even though Rajiv Yaduvanshi, secretary of PWD, refused to comment, a senior agency official, who didn’t wish to be named, said the department has asked contractors to abide by the rules and if there are violations then it must have been a case of ignorance by the contractor.

The NGT order had stated that in case of violation the civic agency would be penalised with a fine of ₹10,000. The order also stated that if deconcretisation is undertaken mechanically and the roots are damaged then the executive engineer of the agency would be held responsible

“We keep reminding the agencies and RWAs from time to time about the order and to remove all kinds of banners, hoardings and wires around tree trunks. In June 2018, a circular was issued to the civic agencies to submit a status report on deconcretisation of trees,” said a senior official of the state forest department. He could not say whether any civic agency submitted the report.

Experts said it is not just the NGT order which had directed agencies to leave space around the base of trees. In 2000, the union environment and forest ministry had said that an area of 6 feet x 6 feet should be left around trees. In 2007, the Delhi HC had ordered de-choking of trees.

“The non-compliance of the NGT order has to be understood in the light of how trees are treated in urban planning. They are seen as encumbrances. This is as much a legal issue as it is an administrative,” said Kanchi Kohli, a legal researcher with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR

First Published: May 16, 2019 05:58 IST