Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai has asked the forest department to stop giving tree felling permission for projects in the city until further orders, The Indian Express has learnt.
In a letter sent last week, Rai asked the department to give details of how many trees have been felled in the city over the past two years, and compensatory plantation done for the trees felled. The letter, which was confirmed by two officials, states, “No permission of felling of trees will be issued until further orders.”
The direction comes at a time when the forest department has had run-ins with the DMRC and Indian Army, over projects in the city. A proposal to cut 17,000 trees for Delhi’s third ring road being developed by NHAI has also been made in a draft environmental impact assessment report submitted to the DPCC.
An official from Rai’s office told The Indian Express the government does not wish to stop development projects in the city. “Environmental issues are sensitive and we take them seriously. All (tree cutting) applications must be deeply examined and final approval must come from the Minister’s level,” said the official.
Until now, the forest department has been seeking the Minister’s approval for projects which are spread over 1 hectare area, before granting permission to cut trees. While the official did not deny such a letter was sent, he said there should be no “immediate approval” of tree cutting applications: “It’s not like we have not been giving approvals for projects. In fact, two approvals were given Tuesday… There should be deep monitoring of applications.”
A government official said the sudden stoppage of granting tree felling permission could cause a rise in illegal felling: “If people take law in their own hands, it will be very difficult to tackle it.”
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