19 July 2022 5:15 AM GMT
Observing that the national capital has lost 1,54,000 years of tree life because of the permitted tree-felling, the Delhi High Court has observed that the Government projects are necessarily required to keep environmental issues into consideration. "No amount of concrete- scaping can replace the loss of or damage to the green cover," Justice Najmi Waziri said. The Court, while hearing a...
Observing that the national capital has lost 1,54,000 years of tree life because of the permitted tree-felling, the Delhi High Court has observed that the Government projects are necessarily required to keep environmental issues into consideration.
"No amount of concrete- scaping can replace the loss of or damage to the green cover," Justice Najmi Waziri said.
The Court, while hearing a contempt plea concerning felling of trees, added that in its previous order, it was noted that 77,420 trees were permitted to be cut-down or felled in the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 through applications under sec. 9 and 29 of the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994.
"If the average age of each tree was 20 years, then Delhi has lost 1,54,000 years of tree- life because of the permitted tree-felling. The other data, as noted in para 3 of the previous order is presently not on record. When furnished it would likely increase the loss manifold. Each felled tree only aggravates the ever increasing air and noise pollution. Government projects would necessarily be required to keep these environmental issues into consideration. No amount of concrete- scaping can replace the loss of or damage to the green cover," the Court observed.
The Court also said that the additional affidavit filed by the respondents did not address the felling or cutting down of one tree.
"Surely, a tree on PWD roads/lands cannot vanish or be felled without knowledge of the officer incharge of that stretch of road/land. The affidavit is silent in this regard. After site inspection, the Tree Officer has recorded damage to 80+3 trees. Therefore, paras 24 to 27 of the said affidavit are untenable," the Court observed.
It said "Civil construction works for clearance of clogged drains, as may, could not be undertaken in breach of land parameters, court directions or without requisite permission."
At the outset, the Court was apprised by counsel appearing for the respondent authorities that in order to mitigate their wrongdoings, they wish to volunteer to plant 830 trees (ten times the damaged trees) in and around the Supreme Court, as well as on the stretch of Mathura Road and other other areas in the Central and East Delhi as may be identified by the Forest Department.
"To begin with at least 100 trees will be planted opposite the Supreme Court in the land which has now been freed-up, abutting an underground loop between Pragati Maidan, and the Supreme Court," the Court ordered.
It added "Apropos the remaining 530 trees volunteered to be planted, Annexure-9 of the affidavit of the Conservator of Forest (at PDF 110 of the paper book) will be examined; it lists Deemed Forest Area where further afforestation could be carried out in terms of the judgment dated 12.12.1996 in T.N.Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India & Ors. (W.P.(Civil) No.202/1995)."
Accordingly, in view of the assurance to mitigate to some extent the damage caused by the contemnors, the Court kept in abeyance the sentencing order till the next date of hearing, July 21.
Advocate Aditya N Prasad appeared for the petitioner.
The court, in previous hearings of the matter had shown concern over the removal of fully grown trees from the city, stating that it would be reasonable and wise to transplant such trees rather than removing them.
The court had also emphasised upon the value of every single tree in a neighbourhood and stated that compensatory afforestation, which is a "geographically distant and nascent compensatory plantation, can hardly be of any respite or actual compensation."
CASE TITLE: NEERAJ SHARMA v. VINAY SHEEL SAXENA & ORS. and NEW DELHI NATURE SOCIETY v. SHRI VINAY SHEEL SAXENA & ORS.
Click Here To Read Order