Contempt notices to Army and PWD over damage to trees along Ring Road
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued contempt notices to different Army officials and the public works department (PWD) over alleged damage to at least 45 full-grown trees along Ring Road in Dhaula Kuan during the construction of a boundary wall near Delhi Cantonment.
The notice was issued to the secretary, Army Environmental Park and Training Area (AEPTA), commandant, Rajputana Rifles Regiment Centre (RRRC), General Officer Commanding (GOC) Station Area and engineer-in-chief of the Public Works Department (PWD).
The construction was being carried out by the Station Area (HQs) in the tree line along the periphery of RRRC and AEPTA, while the violated green patch is under PWD’s jurisdiction.
The PWD and the Delhi forest department had earlier this month issued notices to the Army Station Headquarters for the alleged damage to the trees. The deputy conservator of forest (west) had also issued a restraining order on August 26, asking the Army to stop work.
The court directed the principal chief conservator of forests, Delhi government, to submit a status report in the matter before the next date of hearing.
The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by a green activist, who had initially complained to the Delhi forest department and the PWD about the violations. The plea pointed at the violation of the court’s and the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) orders prohibiting any kind of construction activity within one-metre radius of a tree trunk.
A senior PWD official on condition of anonymity, said, “We have not received the notice so far. We will be in a position to comment only when we see the order.”
Indian Army spokesperson, Colonel Aman Anand, who denied any damage, said, “Our response to the Hon’ble Court’s Order will be filed once it is received and studied.”
Forest officials had earlier said the trenching work for the boundary wall started from the Sawai Man Singh Dwar and goes up to the training area .
The stretch is under PWD, which had served a ‘cease and desist’ notice to the General Officer Commanding of the station area on August 20. “Trenching activity within one-metre radius of a tree trunk is a violation of National Green Tribunal’s 2015 order as well as of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. It was found that during the trenching work, a total of 45 trees were damaged. The GOC is requested to stop the work in the tree line,” it said.
The notice says full-grown varieties such as gular, semal, bargad, shehtut, neem and peepal were damaged.
Another report by the Delhi forest department based on an inspection on August 7 said 27 trees had been “damaged/felled”. “In case of most trees, the roots have been exposed...The trees are located in a line in front of Metro pillar number 45 to pillar number 79,” the report said.
When HT visited the spot on Tuesday, work was on. Deep trenches of about 5-6 feet were dug up. A portion had been cleared of trees and levelled with earth.
Colonel Anand said a wall was being repaired on certified A1 defence land. “The scope involves recasting of plinth in the existing wall along with raising of height of wall at identified places for augmenting security of army area. The work pertains to repair of an ‘existing asset’ and does not involves fresh construction....neither any trees have been damaged in the process and nor any intent for such an act exists within this organisation”.
C R Babu, professor emeritus at the Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Ecosystems at DU, said roadside trees and vegetation act as a filter against air pollution. “Trees such as gular, bargad, semal and peepal have a high dust-trapping efficiency... Trenching destroys the root system of the trees...”