The Delhi government’s Forest Department granted permission for tree felling without making sure that compensatory plantation is carried out, the CAG audit report 2018 said. Between 2015 and 2017, 750 permissions were given for felling of 13,018 trees. The obligation was to plant 65,090 trees but the department planted only 21,048 saplings — a shortfall of 67%.
According to the report, the North and South Delhi forest areas did not plant a single sapling in 2017. The forest department, the report says, replied that securing land for compensatory plantation was an ongoing process and they undertake plantation accordingly.
“The reply is not acceptable as the Department itself states that it asks the institutional agencies to provide 100% compensatory plantation land in case forest land is not available and, therefore, availability of land should have been ensured prior to giving permission for cutting trees,” says the report. The annual Comptroller and Auditor General of India report comprises findings from performance and compliance audit of the Delhi government’s departments.
The forest department will not be able to achieve the targetted plantation for more than 25% of its area if it keeps working at the current pace, the report said. As per the Forest Research Institute report, 20.59% of Delhi’s area had forest and tree cover in 2017. In 2015, this figure was 20.22%.
“Forest Department and other Greening Agencies planted 28.12 lakh trees during 2014-17 against their target of planting 36.57 lakh trees, leaving a shortfall of 23%… Delhi could marginally increase the forest and tree cover during 2009-2017 from… 20.20% of its total geographical area in 2009 to 20.59%… in 2017. With this pace, it seems the Department would nowhere be achieving the target of 25% or 33% in the foreseeable future,” the report says.
Delhi’s Tree Authority, responsible for preservation and census of trees, met just once from 2014-17, the report states. The authority is supposed to meet at least once in three months.
The department also failed to recover fines worth Rs 4.60 lakh for felling trees without permission.
According to rules, permission is needed from the Forest Department to fell or prune trees and a maximum penalty of Rs 10,000 is fixed for failing to do so. Between 2014 and 2017, 285 cases were observed and penalty imposed in seven of these was not recovered till August 2017.