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"If Citizens Claim Environment As Their Own, Wonders Could Happen": Delhi High Court Bats For Community Participation For Preservation Of Trees

Nupur Thapliyal
18 May 2022 2:00 PM GMT
If Citizens Claim Environment As Their Own, Wonders Could Happen: Delhi High Court Bats For Community Participation For Preservation Of Trees

The Delhi High Court has called for community participation for the purpose of preservation of trees, while asking the land-owning agencies to consider engaging RWAs and citizens' groups in the nurturing and preservation of trees.

"When citizens claim the environment as their own and participate in its preservation and rejuvenation, wonders could happen. The efforts of governmental agencies would receive an immense boost and positive results are likely to be visible sooner than one would anticipate," Justice Najmi Waziri added.

The development came after the Court was apprised about the status of plantation of trees along city's DND flyover and that a survey was conducted by the DDA in coordination with the Forest Department of the Delhi Government.

The Court was informed that certain areas were identified and work is likely to be started in the next few days for digging of pits for plantation of 7,000 trees in the first tranche.

"This is encouraging news. Delhi cannot wait to have its multitude of healthy trees right away," the Court said.

This comes after the Court had earlier sought the response of the State Government on the measures taken by it for securing it's tree officers in the discharge of their duties.

The court was informed that thousands of cattle were stationed inside the forest land or green land under DDA's management.

Noting that the responsibility and jurisdiction to seize stray cattle vested with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Court directed the corporation to ensure that the said forest area management is rid of stray cattle, so that the roughly 175 acres of land, duly secured by mending of the broken boundary wall, would be available for plantation of trees.

While observing that there is no dispute over the need for more greenery or green lungs in Central Delhi and all over Delhi, the Court said:

"The lands where plantation is sought to be undertaken are declared and identified forest lands or otherwise notified as "green" under the Delhi Master Plan. According to New Delhi Municipal Council the authority which maintains Lodhi Garden, a public park spread over 80 acres in Central Delhi, the garden is home to 5,400 trees – some old some young."

"A mere drive or even a walk in the vicinity of the garden lends to peace, fresh air and calmness. If land rejuvenation activity is endeavoured in right earnest, the designated forest lands/ "green" lands – totalling about 1,000 acres (of the total 2,000 acres) in the Central Ridge, the long-term benefits from a denser vegetation spread over an area of about 12 Lodhi Gardens, would be too attractive and compelling to ignore. The plantation of 1,65,000 trees (1,40,000+25,000) in the Central Ridge, approximately 30 times the number of trees in Lodhi Garden will be in the larger public interest. This interest needs to be protected and augmented."

The Court noted that 864 hectares of land was handed over to GNCTD by the Government of India in 2004, which was to be maintained as "green". However, only 853 acres was in possession of the Forest Department, GNCTD.

Noting that about 210 acres of land was with DDA and the remaining lands was with other agencies and entities, the Court said:

"All these lands have to be brought back in terms of the Government of India‟s Notification dated 19.05.2004 and the entire area/land has to be handed over to the Forest Department to be maintained and nurtured as "green". If this entire land is actually developed as "green", it could create about 25 Lodhi Gardens with far greater density of trees. The reason for higher density of trees would be that the land would be developed as forests and not necessarily as public park. But that is another matter."

The Court was of the view that every endeavour should be made by the authorities collectively, to secure the Ridge "green" areas for afforestation at the earliest possible.

Accordingly, it ordered thus:

"Let coordination, in this regard, be done between the Director (Horticulture) DDA (or other officer of equivalent rank); the Deputy Commissioner, North DMC and DCP concerned along with the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Department of Forests, GNCTD. The learned counsel for the parties say that they would coordinate with each other and keep the learned Court Commissioners and the learned Amicus Curiae informed of progress in this regard. Visits of officers and counsel to the site in the next week, shall be facilitated and due protection shall be provided to them by the local police."

The matter will now be heard tomorrow.


Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 466

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