NGT order may stop felling of 16,500 trees for ‘redevelopment’ of south Delhi localities
A 2017 order by the National Green Tribunal could yet stop the ambitious redevelopment of seven neighbourhoods in south Delhi dedicated to housing for Central government employees, where 16,500 trees are likely to face the axe to make way for flats, offices and a trade centre.
Project developer NBCC (India) Ltd will have to compulsorily plant trees as a “condition precedent to the cutting of the trees” in these areas, the September 2017 order said, adding that it could stop the project if there were any violations and that the state-owned project management company would be liable to pay environmental damages.
“...The plants shall be planted as a condition precedent to the cutting of the trees...The applicant shall plant the tall plants trees at the venue site in question at the first instance,” the NGT order read. The order had also specified that all attempts must be made by the project managers to transplant the existing trees.
HT had earlier reported that the Delhi government’s forest department had given the go-ahead for felling at least 16,500 fully-grown trees in the seven neighbourhoods.
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.
Despite NGT’s clear directions, when HT visited the Nauroji Nagar site on Friday — work for the demolition of old government housing has already started here—no site was found where new saplings were being planted.
Residents around the construction site said that a few trees had already been cut, but no new saplings had been planted.
“Trees will be planted once the new residential complex comes up. How can we plant saplings in the middle of all this construction?” said a site manager at Nauroji Nagar who did not wish to be named. NBCC chairperson Anoop Kumar Mittal declined comment on the issue.
Following an uproar among residents and activists over the felling of thousands of trees, union minister of housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said “compensatory plantation” was being carried out.
“Compensatory plantation of trees is being carried out in a ratio of 1:10, i.e. ten trees are being planted against the loss of one tree. Thus, 1, 35,460 trees shall be planted, which will create an ‘Urban Forest’,” Puri tweeted.
The felling of these trees took a political turn on Friday after AAP said it would not allow chopping of these trees. Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain said permission for cutting these trees had been granted directly by the L-G and that repeated objections raised by him were ignored.
“What good would planting saplings 30 km away serve when the pollution level in the Capital is rising at such an alarming rate? What the central government is saying is that 40 years later these saplings might come up so we are cutting thousands of trees now and the central ministry is trying to justify that,” AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said.
Sources from the L-G office, however, rebutted this claim and said that no proposal can reach the L-G unless it is recommended by the minister of the concerned department—in this case the environment minister.
“If objections are raised by a minister then the file is sent back. It only reaches the L-G once the minister is satisfied with the proposal and recommends it,” an official said. Meanwhile residents and activists continued their fight to stop the trees from getting cut. Quoting the HT report dated June 17, a petition was filed in NGT on Friday, seeking its intervention. The residents organised a candlelight march in Netaji Nagar on Friday