South Delhi is expected to lose thousands of trees for the redevelopment of government colonies. While independent reports have pegged the number at 16,500 trees, Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri called reports misleading.
“Green area of 10,69,235 square metres is being proposed in the conceptual plan for all the seven colonies against the existing Green Space of 3,83,101 square metres. Thus, about three times more green space shall be available. 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 the redevelopment,” Puri said.
Nauroji Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Mohammadpur, Sriniwaspuri, Kasturba Nagar and Thyagaraj Nagar are being redeveloped by National Buildings Construction Corporations Limited (NBCC). The permission for cutting the trees came between November last year and this month. A petition against the action has now been filed in the NGT and will be heard on July 2. “I had sent a legal notice to the Forest Department two months ago on the same issue, but did not get any reply from them. The project is a disaster. These are high-density areas. Have they calculated the impact of cutting so many trees on humans? Have they figured out how they will provide water to the people who will occupy these flats?” said Anil Sood, founder of NGO Chetna and the petitioner in the case.
Meanwhile, residents of the area have written to the Ministry of Urban Development, and an online campaign has also been launched, which received 17,000 signatures in just four days. According to rules, for every tree cut, 10 more have to be planted as compensation. However, according to officials in the forest department, less than 50% of these survive.The CAG Report, 2018, had noted that in 2015 and 2017, 750 permissions were given to fell 13,018 trees. The obligation was to plant 65,090 trees but the department planted only 21,048 saplings, a shortfall of 67%. While Puri said that 1,35,460 trees will be planted as compensation for the ones being cut, experts said that only a fraction of them will be planted in the Sarojini Nagar, while the others will be planted on the Yamuna floodplain.
Trees on the Mathura Road stretch between Pragati Maidan and the Zakir Hussain Marg intersection have also been chopped to make way for a six-lane tunnel connecting Mathura Road and Ring Road.