One tree cut every hour over last 13 years, says Delhi govt data
The most recent proposal to cut at least 14,000 trees for the redevelopment of seven neighbourhoods in South Delhi to house government officials and build a world trade centre has triggered citizens’ protests and a series of litigations.
On average, one tree has been felled in Delhi every hour over the past 13 years, according to data shared by the Delhi government on its website following directions from the Central Information Commission (CIC) and the Delhi high court. The disclosure comes amid concern over proposed cutting of thousands of more trees to make way for new neighbourhoods. The data shows that from 2005 to February 2018, a total of 112,169 trees have been cut — an average of 24 per day.
The forest department’s data on the number of trees cut by various government agencies between 2005 and 2010 shows that the maximum number of trees were felled by Delhi government’s public works department (PWD), the main road-building agency of the city, followed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the Railways.
While PWD got permission to cut down 15,762 trees, DMRC was allowed to chop 15,276 trees. The Railways were permitted to cut 6,388 trees during the five-year-period.
The website does not provide agency wise data on tree-cutting after 2010.
The most recent proposal to cut at least 14,000 trees for the redevelopment of seven neighbourhoods in South Delhi to house government officials and build a world trade centre has triggered citizens’ protests and a series of litigations. In the past five years, most application for cutting of trees for civil construction have been accepted by the department with little changes, HT has reported.
Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain said: “Several trees might have been felled in the past for infrastructure and development projects. But we came to power only in 2015.”
“We have issued directions that henceforth no trees would be allowed to be cut unless it becomes absolutely necessary or dangerous,” he added.
A majority of the trees were cut between 2005 and 2010 for the makeover of the city for the Commonwealth Games 2010, a senior PWD official said on condition of anonymity. For the games, several infrastructure projects such as construction of flyovers, housing complexes and widening of roads were carried out.
“All these trees were cut legally. But we still don’t know how many were felled illegally,” said Aditya Prasad, an advocate who has filed a case in the National Green Tribunal against PWD’s Vikaspuri elevated corridor project for which the agency has sought permission to fell around 800 trees.
Environmentalists are upset that the Delhi Tree Authority is doing little protect the trees in the city. According to a 2018 Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report, the authority had met just once in the last three years against the mandated number of 12 meetings.
Environmental experts say the authority has taken no measure to check and monitor compensatory plantation . Kanchi Kohli, researcher at Centre for Policy Research, said: “Trees are being allowed to be cut under the garb of compensatory plantation but even that target is not being fulfilled. This is despite the fact that compensatory plantation cannot replace a full-grown tree and the loss of biodiversity. Secondly the number 112,169 could be an underestimate given the fact that there is no census or base line of trees in Delhi,” she said.