In a move to set to rest the controversy surrounding the construction of 25,000 flats for government employees across seven colonies in South Delhi, Centre has made it clear that no trees will be cut for redevelopment of South Delhi government colonies. Earlier, it had been announced that over 14,000 trees would be cut down for development of the colonies. This was met with widespread outrage. The proposed plan had given rise to environmental concerns keeping Delhi’s high pollution levels in mind. A major protest had broken out with environmental activists launching their own version of “Chipko movement”, similar to the forest conservation movement that had been launched in the 1970s in Uttarakhand (then Uttar Pradesh).
Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri confirmed that no trees would be cut for redeveloping the government colonies. He further assured that the national capital’s green cover would not be damaged and that, the government, will in fact take steps to improve it.
The agencies entrusted with executing the redevelopment plan- NBCC and CPWD have already been instructed to rework and redesign the plans in order to prevent cutting of trees. Some of the trees may be transplanted to other locations and the NBCC is in the process of engaging trained professional to that end. This will ensure that even if some trees have to be cut down, no damage is done and the green cover remains intact.
The minister’s comments have come after he held a meeting with the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal and all other stakeholders including DDA vice chairman Udai Pratap Singh, NBCC CMD Anoop Kumar Mittal, CPWD DG Abhai Sinha and HUA secretary D S Mishra. It was in this meeting that the CPWD and NBCC were asked to re-work and re-design, the redevelopment plans. Puri also stated that the government is going to go ahead with its compensatory plan of planting 1 million trees within the next three months. Even the onus of planting the trees which are going to be 8-12 feet high has been divided among the concerned authorities. NBCC is going to plant 25,000 trees, CPWD will be planting 50,000 trees, the DDA is going to plant a million trees and the DMRC is going to plant 20,000 trees. The process of planting the trees is going to be completed within the next three months during the monsoon season. NBCC has also instructed its contractors to refrain from cutting trees in any of the redevelopment projects in line with the undertaking given to the Delhi High Court.
A blame game had started over the repercussions of the announcement to cut down 14,000 trees in the national capital. However, Puri stated that the Kejriwal government had granted all necessary permissions on the recommendation of Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain. Puri also expressed hope that the Delhi government will follow this example in all future plans.
The centre has indeed set an example of how to balance the conflicting interests of construction activity and conservation of green cover. The Kejriwal government also stands exposed. After initial blame game and publicly assuring that it will not grant permission for felling of trees, it had granted the required permissions. Delhi would have perished under reduced green cover, had the Centre and union minister Puri not stepped in and stopped the felling of trees.