Written by Abhinaya Harigovind
Delhi’s green cover may have to take a beating, this time to facilitate a highway project. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has submitted a proposal to clear 14.08 hectares of “forest” land in East and Northeast Delhi to make way for a six-lane road.
The proposal is for the Delhi-Saharanpur highway from the Akshardham NH-9 junction to the Delhi-UP border. The 14.75-km-long project falls under the Union government’s Bharatmala Pariyojana road development scheme.
Phase-1 of the project, in Delhi, will begin near Akshardham temple and end near the Delhi-UP border, while Phase 2 will start from the border and end at Khekra village, the project note read. The total length of the road will be 32.2 km.
A total of 1.85 hectares of “deemed forest” land is proposed to be diverted in the East district, while the remaining 12.23 hectares is in the Northeast district.
Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Central Division, Aditya Madanpotra, said around 5,104 trees might have to be cut for the project. This includes 2,038 trees on the left side of the road, 2,436 on the right side, and 630 trees along the median. The total number is still being reviewed but is likely to remain close to the figure stated, he added.
According to the tree enumeration document uploaded by NHAI, the 2,038 trees on the left side of the project include banyan, neem, peepal, champa, pilkhan, sheesham, jamun and kikar.
The initial proposal for the forest clearance was submitted in May this year. According to the timeline for the project uploaded on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s portal, the Deputy Conservator of Forests (Central) had raised queries in August and September on the initial proposal submitted and is now awaiting a response from NHAI.
Madanpotra said that there were issues with the area in Shastri Park that was initially earmarked for compensatory afforestation. An inspection had shown that Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had already undertaken tree plantation in some sections of that land. “Now, the user agency [NHAI] has applied for a fresh piece of land. The land that they have been provided now by the DDA is a single patch,” he said.
“When the NHAI first applied for clearance in May, the proposal was incomplete. The complete proposal was received only in August,” Madanpotra added.