Large-scale felling of trees for the redevelopment of seven colonies in south Delhi was to include close to 16,500 trees, as per the Environment Impact Assessment report. Documents accessed by The Indian Express, however, show that the proposal to cut 11,000 trees in Sarojini Nagar was turned down by the Delhi Forest Department.
A report on the status of permission for tree cutting shows that the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) Limited had initially requested exemption to cut 11,000 trees. However, the forest department had raised objections and refused permission for the same.
“Proposal was withdrawn by the user agency after objections by the forest department to reduce the number of trees (being cut),” the status report states. On March 10 this year, sources said, the NBCC again applied for exemption for “Phase I” of tree felling — this time, for cutting 606 trees. This, too, was turned down. “… Objection has been sent to user agency due to inadequate data for compensatory plantation,” said the report.
As of now, the total number of trees which will be cut are 4,695, while 1,213 more will be translocated inside the project area. The NBCC, meanwhile, is in the process of sending a revised proposal to the forest department for consideration. “The figure of 16,500 trees is incorrect. NBCC has got permission to cut only 3,780 trees in Nauroji Nagar and Netaji Nagar respectively. The other four projects — in Mohammadpur, Kasturba Nagar, Sriniwaspuri, and Thyagraj Nagar are under the CPWD,” said AK Mittal, chairperson-cum-managing director, NBCC. NBCC has already paid Rs 23 crore to the government for compensatory plantation, he said.
In a statement on Friday, Union minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri had said, “Only 14,031 trees are to be cut of the existing 21,040. Moreover, against the 21,040 existing trees, 23,475 trees shall be available in these colonies during/after redevelopment.”
The AAP has joined a citizens’ campaign to stop the tree felling. Party spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said the government will not give its nod for tree felling anymore. “With respect to 11,000 trees, the forest department had objected to the large number of trees to be felled as part of the central government project in Sarojini Nagar. Then exemption sought for felling 606 trees was also rejected. Though exemption is under the powers of the L-G, we will create pressure so that no more exemption for felling trees is granted by him,” he said.
Stating that the plan to fell trees is “inevitable”, BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari alleged that the AAP government was indulging in “cheap political gimmicks on such a sensitive issue” after it “issued permission to fell trees”.