The Delhi High Court on Thursday came down heavily upon state officials for not taking steps to protect trees and to increase the green cover in the national capital.
In its last order, the High Court had placed a ban on tree felling in the capital and had also asked the authorities including Public Works Department (PWD) and Delhi police to make amends to the harm caused to the environment by planting trees and deconcretizing the area around trees on Mathura Road from near the Supreme Court right up to the Ashram flyover.
The single judge bench of Justice Najmi Waziri, while enquiring about the progress made by officials pursuant to the court's last order probed–
"There were 15 trees to be planted in front of the Supreme Court, what has happened to them? The entire area is devoid of trees; remember years ago there used to be so many trees in the area!"
Remarking that hundreds of thousands of trees cut for construction by the government but no amends are made, the Judge added,
"We said that you may transplant these trees in front of the Supreme Court. A promise was made in March to do it. What have you done since the last order? Where is the urgency? Where are you showing to the citizens that you as PWD, as executive engineers of PWD are concerned about Mathura Road. This road going from Mathura to Vrindavan- when you think about it, you only think of trees and greenery. What have you done? There is no single tree in the whole area. What kind of planning is this? So much damage has also been done opposite Sundar nagar; beautiful trees have been destroyed. The street is owned by you, you maintain it. Mathura road is going to be green again. Start rectifying your mistakes. You will undo the concrete."
Meanwhile, in a connected matter, Justice Waziri was apprised about the status of plantation of 300 trees along city's DND flyover. Justice Waziri while congratulating the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for commencing the process, asked them to plant more trees in the area as soon as possible. The bench also asked for Delhi Police officers to assist in the matter and encouraged public participation in planting trees to ensure community engagement as well. The court stated,
"Private guards of the DDA will not have same effect as "Khakhi wardi". This is a law and order issue and for some time the Delhi Police will have to assist. Owing to the independence day celebrations soon, the Delhi police may reduce its force and DDA can augment it and have private agencies to assist as well. Let PWD procure trees in the next five days and plantation shall be carried out on 15th, 16th and 17th July. Participation of public is encouraged. Citizens living in the housing colony on sides will be encouraged to participate to have a sense of community engagement. Assistance of Delhi police is acknowledged and appreciated. Let it be brought to the notice of senior officers."
The court also asked the petitioners to make a convenience compilation, consisting of orders of committees and orders of the Supreme Court of India and other judicial bodies, which would be relevant for the determination of ways to mitigate ecological harm in Delhi, to be shared with each other. DDA was directed to file all documents and data including maps indicating the nature of land as it has been considered after the DDA Act came into play in 1957. The court also asked the counsel to research upon and produce international practice of laying on turfs and rejuvenating the area around it.
While Justice Waziri recognised that the authorities had a duty to provide facilities to citizens, he stated that they also have a duty to also protect green covers and strike a balance between concretisation and protecting green covers.
Case Title: Neeraj Sharma v. Vinay Sheel (and other connected matters)