Delhi HC Stays Felling Of 20,000 Trees For Redevelopment Of South Delhi Colonies Till 4 July
The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed till 4 July the cutting down of around 20,000 trees for redevelopment of six south Delhi colonies by the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).
The Bench comprising Justice Vinod Goel and Justice Rekha Palli issued the order on a petition filed by an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Kaushal Kant Mishra, represented through Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan. The Petition seeks setting aside the Terms of Reference (ToR) and the Environment Clearances (EC) granted to the project by the Environment Ministry.
Mr. Mishra has alleged that the permissions have been granted “wholly ignoring the air pollution and serious environmental concerns that affect the health of the citizens of the capital”. He relies on the recent report submitted by Niti Ayog, which had claimed that India is facing an emergent water crisis, and asserts that the project would “force the city and its residents into an abyss”.
He further highlights the fact that it has repeatedly been laid down by the Supreme Court that trees are held in “public trust” by the Government on behalf of the public and that the right to a clean environment is protected by Article 21 of the Constitution. He then alleges that the impugned ECs and ToRs “amount to an outrage on the delicate ecosystem of the capital amounting to a clear violation”.
Mr. Mishra also points out the lack of consultation undertaken before setting the plan in motion, submitting, “The so-called purpose of these projects is General Pool Residential Accommodation (GPRA) and General Pool Office Accommodation (GPOA) with several towers, completely overlooking the fact that belated urban planning of this nature can only be contemplated when the air, water, waste management and traffic scenarios are properly considered after consulting the members of the affected populace. There has been no consultation, and a fait accompli is sought to be foisted on the public without this.”
He goes on to highlight the current environment in Delhi, where the risk of diseases has increased with the deterioration of the air quality, and submits that worsening the situation by cutting of trees would not be “mere negligence but State sponsored death”. Besides, he also refuses to accept the argument of planting trees elsewhere to compensate, submitting,
“It is well recorded that trees capture pollutants, produce oxygen, reduce dust pollution, recharge groundwater and provide shade. Extant principles which may be mechanically applied by the authorities have to now take into consideration the grave level of pollution and scarcity affecting the city of Delhi before giving clearances. In Sarojini Nagar for example, 11,000 out of 13,128 trees are to be cut, while in Kasturba Nagar, all 520 trees are to be removed, without leaving even one to survive. No amount of landscaping and tree planting can properly compensate for the loss of precious green cover.”
The matter has now been listed on 4 July.
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