Written byGogona Saikia
The Delhi HC has stayed till July 2 the planned felling of more than 16,000 trees for redevelopment of residential facilities for central government employees.
"Can Delhi afford to cut trees for roads and buildings?" the court asked NBCC, the state-owned company involved in the project.
Ironically, the tree-felling move comes even as the capital chokes amid "severe" air quality, which has become the norm.
The Center's proposal to cut down 16,000 trees has riled Delhiites, who have risen in masses to protest the move.
Yesterday, thousands gathered in Sarojini Nagar, one of the six South Delhi colonies chosen for the redevelopment, to re-enact the famous 'Chipko movement' by hugging trees.
Other locations shortlisted are Naoroji Nagar, Thyagraj Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Mohammadpur and Kasturba Nagar.
According to the government, as many as 8,322 of 11,913 trees in Sarojini Nagar would be cut, while in Nauroji Nagar, 1,465 of 1,513 tress would be chopped.
In Netaji Nagar, 2,315 of 3,906 trees would be felled, while in Mohammadpur, 562 trees would be removed.
723 trees would be cut in Kasturba Nagar, 750 in Sriniwaspuri, and 93 in Thyagraj Nagar.
The Center's assurance that it would cover up the loss of the trees by planting saplings hasn't satisfied man.
Junior Housing Minister Hardeep Singh Puri assured they would plant 10 saplings for every tree cut. "Green cover will go up by three times after re-development."
But activists rubbished the claims, arguing it will take the saplings years to replace the fully-grown trees.
AAP said the environment clearance was given by the Union Forest Ministry in November, and the final approval by L-G Anil Baijal.
They claimed State Environment Minister Imran Hussain had raised objections and proposed alternatives.
But BJP said it was AAP's own minister who had approved the move. Baijal's office too said he doesn't receive files for approval unless it is cleared by ministers first.
Amid all the bickering, KK Mishra, an orthopaedic surgeon, took the matter to court. Quoting a CAG report, he said Delhi has a deficit of 9L trees, and felling of thousands needs to be stopped.
NBCC argued such jurisdiction on central government's projects lie with the NGT, and that it had deposited Rs. 8cr with Delhi's tree authority for permission to cut the trees.
The HC has now asked the petitioner to approach the NGT, which is also scheduled to hear the case on July 2. The next hearing in the HC is on July 4.
Planning to cut thousands of trees, especially in a city like Delhi, is painfully ironic, to say the least. Pollution in Delhi is so severe that it is even corroding metro infrastructure.
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