Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar, New Delhi, July 14, 2013 14:20 IST.

Says will comply with afforestation norm; plant 10 trees for every tree cut.

Just as the fate of the signal-free corridor on Outer Ring Road from Vikaspuri to Madhuban Chowk appeared to hang in the balance with the National Green Tribunal ordering that status quo be maintained with respect to the standing trees, the Public Works Department of Delhi Government, which had sought permission to fell 914 trees for undertaking the construction work, has got permission to cut 785 trees.

In fact, the permission was granted to the PWD by former Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna just a few days before he demitted office. Delhi PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan said the permission is granted by the Forest Department of Delhi Government but has to be routed through the Lieutenant-Governor and the procedure was followed.

“We would now cut the trees in question and proceed with the construction activity. We would also comply with the compensatory afforestation norm of planting 10 trees for every tree cut. For that we would be planting trees alongside the corridor and its central verge, and also at designated places on the outskirts of the city,’’ he said.

The Minister clarified that the project work had never stopped. “It is a project of great importance for the citizens of Delhi as it would decongest large parts of the city. The trees are planted along the roads by the government and it also has the right to cut them when space is required for necessary developmental works.’’

Incidentally, the matter was heard by NGT on Friday. There, it was contended by the PWD that no trees had been cut. However, the Judges questioned them on the picture of cut and damaged trees provided by the applicant.

It was also contended by the applicant that the project fell under point 8 (a) of the Schedule of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification 2006 of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which requires that constructions having more than 20,000 square metre require an EIA clearance by the MoEF.

Furthermore, a preliminary report on the ecological impact of the elevated project prepared by Delhi Greens, an environment NGO, was also placed on record. The Tribunal ordered reply to be filed and listed the matter for July 23 while ordering that status quo with respect to the standing trees be maintained.

Overall, the issue pertains to the felling of nearly 2,000 trees for the construction of the Vikaspuri-Madhuban Chowk elevated road project. The main applicant, Aditya N. Prasad, had earlier also written to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit demanding that unnecessary felling of trees by the PWD be stopped forthwith and efforts be made to preserve them. He had claimed that the PWD had submitted a request for felling 914 trees standing alongside Outer Ring Road No. 26 near Meera Bagh, and another 1,000 trees along the Mangolpuri stretch.

It had also been claimed by Mr. Prasad that the trees being sought to be cut were not an obstruction to the elevated road/ flyover as they were more than 220 feet away from the central verge and do not fall in the alignment of the project. Further, he has contended before the Chief Minister and also the NGT that the PWD has provided contradictory reasons for the requirement for felling of trees.

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