4 July 2023 6:17 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court recently ordered that the football and hockey fields at the Siri Fort Sports Complex having natural grass be not destroyed or altered to artificial turf.“Siri Fort Sports Complex (SFSC) lies in the heart of South Delhi and the adjoining greenery needs to be protected at all cost, as the entire area is a green lung for the city. A park or a green area in the midst of...
The Delhi High Court recently ordered that the football and hockey fields at the Siri Fort Sports Complex having natural grass be not destroyed or altered to artificial turf.
“Siri Fort Sports Complex (SFSC) lies in the heart of South Delhi and the adjoining greenery needs to be protected at all cost, as the entire area is a green lung for the city. A park or a green area in the midst of a thickly populated residential area or commercial area is of a far greater value than a forest removed kilometres away from a human habitation,” Justice Najmi Waziri said in a judgement passed on June 30.
The court was hearing a plea moved by a senior citizen Sudhir Gupta, permanent member of the Sports Complex and a resident of the adjacent Asiad Village, against the action of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to convert the football and hockey grounds into synthetic surface or artificial turf.
The DDA, being the land owning agency which manages the Sports Centre, had floated a tender for the conversion work. However, on the first day the plea was taken up in 2020, a status quo was ordered on the authority’s action.
“The DDA shall maintain the status quo passed in this petition on 04.02.2020. The said order is made absolute. The football and hockey fields which presently have natural grass shall not be destroyed or altered to artificial turf,” the court ordered.
Justice Waziri, who is retiring on July 14, observed that laying of artificial turf will be an “irreversible damage” to not only the football and hockey fields in the Sports Complex, but also to the contiguous green area and is likely to affect the people using the immediately adjacent walking path.
“If DDA has assessed the need for artificial turf, it may consider laying it at another place which does not have the aforenoted legal protection, as directed by the NGT and in terms of the order of the Supreme Court. However, there too it will have to ensure that the artificial turf poses no threat or harm to the local ecology. Irrespective of ownership of the land, DDA will need to protect the green areas especially in a city where the ever burgeoning population and the concomitant increase in number of vehicles and dwelling units, adds to the environmental pressure and pollution,” the court said.
It added that land may belong to individuals and land-owning agencies, the environment belongs to all humans, including all living creatures.
“Each living being needs to be protected from damaged ecology. There is a shared duty and responsibility on each individual to protect the environment from harm,” the court observed.
It added: “By its proposed plan DDA would convert natural grass to artificial turf, the same would be in breach of the aforesaid directions and result in the destruction of a significant part of the open and naturally green area of the complex. The proposed plan is impermissible and illegal. Therefore, such conversion of laying of artificial turf will have to be abandoned by the DDA.”
Observing further that the environment is much larger than a simple football or hockey field, the court said that in a city like Delhi, the ecology of small pockets of green areas, serving as lungs for the city especially amidst densely populated residential, commercial and industrial localities is crucial and fragile.
“Therefore, greater caution and sensitivity has to be exercised, lest an inexorable harm is set in motion which may continue to blight the city for generations to come. Development is not always the creation of roads, buildings, civic or industrial infrastructure, etc. In a world of technology, travel and tearing hurry, development is also manifested in the retention of delicate ecology and green area of a neighbourhood, so as to maintain the environmental equilibrium for posterity,” the court said.
It observed that the land-owning agencies hold land in trust for future generations which they need to exercise such care and caution.
“There can hardly be a case for this city being robbed of its green spaces in a few years only because in one project or the other, there is resultant concretisation of the earth. Today it is two sports fields, tomorrow it would be something else. The creeping concretisation, through seemingly innocuous projects, need to be examined from the prism of ecological balance,” the court added.
Title: SUDHIR GUPTA v. DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY & ANR
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 545
Click Here To Read Order