It’s high time that authorities have a green master plan for the capital, the Delhi High Court said Thursday, while extending its prohibition order on felling 16,500 trees for the proposed redevelopment of seven housing projects in south Delhi.
“The damage to the environment cannot be undone. We cannot compromise on the environment, no matter the cost. The damage to the environment is irreplaceable,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.
The court also modified its order with regard to prohibition on felling of trees in the capital, barring situations where such cutting is necessary for the reason that a tree is dead or constitutes a danger to life or property.
The National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited — which is executing the housing project along with the Central Public Works Department — said it was sanctioned by the Union Cabinet. It added that the Cabinet considered the master plan before giving its nod. To this, the bench said, “If you are talking of the master plan, then it is high time for the authorities to decide that we have a green master plan for Delhi.”
Stating that it cannot be denied that this is going to impact the city, the bench asked the Centre for details of its deliberations before grant of environment clearance (EC) for the redevelopment project. It also directed authorities executing the project to ensure that there is no change in traffic and unit density of the areas in question, till further orders.
The court asked for the “considerations and deliberations” carried out by the Environment Ministry before grant of EC, after an expert on development and environment said the clearance for the project area of over 600 acres was given in one sitting, “which was not possible if there was application of mind”.
The expert, Gautam Mann, told the court Thursday that the entire clearance needed a re-look on the basis of the precautionary principle. Mann and another environment expert appointed by the court also said compensatory afforestation was unviable
The bench termed as “worrying” the Delhi Development Authority’s move to increase floor area ratio on the basis of increasing population density, without applying its mind to the services that would need to be provided.
The court was hearing several PILs which have challenged the Terms of Reference (ToR) and EC granted to the housing projects in Sarojini Nagar, Nauroji Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Thyagaraja Nagar, Kasturba Nagar, Mohammadpur, and Sriniwaspuri, claiming it would lead to felling of over 16,500 trees.
The court was also hearing a contempt plea by environmentalist Vimlendu Jha, who alleged that there was a “deliberate and wilful default” of the June 25 undertaking given to the court by the NBCC.