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PWD finally owns up to cutting trees illegally, says sorry

The Indian Express, New Delhi, 21th May, 2013

The Public Works Department on Monday finally apologised to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for lying and illegally cutting trees for a road-widening project in Vasant Kunj, after having denied it twice.

PWD Executive Engineer Kamal Singh apologised on behalf of his staff after denying the offence for a second time on Monday, and even trying to shift the blame to the contractor. The construction to widen a 3.5-km stretch in Vasant Kunj, South Delhi, started late last year, but the NGT put it on hold after resident Sonya Ghosh filed a petition accusing PWD of uprooting trees without permission.

Justice Swatanter Kumar had reprimanded Singh on Friday for claiming the PWD was innocent despite proof from the Forest department that 48 trees had been illegally uprooted.

On Monday, Justice Kumar said Singh was lying "through his nose" again, when Singh tried to put the blame on the contractor handling the project.

"As if a contractor could do anything without the permission of (PWD) to remove the trees," Kumar said. "If we send the contractor to jail, he (the contractor) will say, 'They (PWD) asked me to do it'. You want to try this?"

Singh then apologised on behalf of PWD and said he would follow the orders of the NGT.

Justice Kumar said he would not prosecute Singh and ordered the Forest department, PWD and Ghosh to work together and investigate exactly how many trees had been been illegally felled and if the ones that remained could be saved.

Since the NGT put the construction on hold, two-thirds of the work on the project remains unfinished. However, the PWD still does not have the permission to fell trees for the project.

Justice Kumar ordered the team to report with their findings on May 27.