Updated: April 12, 2021 11:56:38 pm
The Delhi forest department Monday issued a notice to the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) for allegedly illegally felling trees in the process of building a new runway.
Officials from the department said DIAL has been given time till next week to present its case before a tree officer, to prove it had permission for felling trees in a 10 acre area near Terminal 3 of the airport.
An official said, “A notice was issued to DIAL on Monday under Delhi Preservation of Trees Act 1994… An inspection of the site was carried out earlier this month by the department where about 10-15 stumps of trees were found in an area where it appears that DIAL did not have tree felling permission.”
The official added, “It is expected that the number of trees felled will be higher as the area has been levelled and constructed upon. The department is looking at satellite imagery and other details to ascertain the exact number of trees felled.”
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DIAL sources told The Indian Express that the Delhi airport operator had not received the notice as of Monday evening.
Forest officials said DIAL was issued permission to fell 233 trees, “however, it needs to be ascertained whether the area inspected by the forest department, where evidence of tree felling was found, is the same as that covered under the permission.”
The forest department carried out an inspection of the area following directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) after a plea alleged that over 1,000 fully grown trees were felled by DIAL.
Hearing the plea in March, the principal bench of the NGT had asked Delhi’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) to verify the allegation and take remedial action if required.
The bench, led by chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, had said in the order, “In support of (applicant’s) submission, reliance has been placed on reply under the RTI Act that no permission was taken for felling the trees.”
“While RTI proceedings cannot be taken as conclusive to presume that there is no permission, instead of straightaway interfering with the project of public utility and at the same time ensuring compliance of rule of law, we direct PCCF Delhi to verify the factual position and take remedial action, in accordance with law, after due verification,” the order by the Tribunal states.
A fourth runway is being built at the airport, the busiest in the country, as part of its ‘Phase 3A’ expansion plan to cater to an increasing passenger capacity.
The RTI reply given by the Delhi forest department to petitioner Vivek Avasthi, a journalist, on January 7, states that no application was received for cutting “thousand plus fully grown trees,” to a question on whether “the GMR Group, which operates DIAL,” had filed it.
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