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National Green Tribunal again flexes its muscles

 In its fight to save Delhi trees, NGT issues contempt of court notice to the Delhi Jal Board Quick on the heels of contempt of court notices issued to the Engineer-in-Chief of the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF) of the Forest Department last Thursday, the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday issued contempt of court notice to the Chief Executive Officer of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB). The notices were issued citing violation of its April 2013 orders to public authorities to avoid construction and repair within one metre radius of tree trunks.

 

A complaint to the National Green Tribunal had pointed out that trees were damaged while the Delhi Jal Board was digging trenches and laying pipelines in a green area – opposite Essex Farms on Aurobindo Marg – owned and maintained by the PWD. The complainant, Aditya N. Prasad, alleged that an earth excavator had been used in the project. This had led to felling of many trees and had damaged the roots of several other trees. The complaint said that DJB’s work “resulted in felling of at least one Indian Siris (Albizia lebbeck) near B-33 Sarvodaya Enclave, and damaged the roots of several other trees. A tree census by NGO “Compassionate Living” in 2012 had recorded it as tree no 144 with a girth of 242 cm.

 

” Damage to tree roots is not always obvious. The decline could manifest after three to five years and could even result in the death of the tree, it added. “We can lay pipelines only where we are given space. We require dedicated corridors for ensuring essential services,” said a Delhi Jal Board official on condition of anonymity. “The Delhi Preservation of Trees Act 1994 says trees in Delhi are protected and cannot be felled without the permission of Forest Department. But this is not followed. Public authorities commonly resort to digging trenches which damage tree roots instead of using methods such as tunnelling which will minimise the damage.

 

In the work at Aurbindo Marg, they have removed the soil entirely from underneath the trees and the trees will fall,” said Mr. Prasad, a Law student and the complainant in the case. In April 2013, the National Green Tribunal had issued orders prohibiting excavation work within one meter radius of trees and to ensure removal of any concrete structure surrounding trees within a meter. It had directed public authorities including Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Transport Corporation, National Highways Authority of India that signboards, advertisements, boards and nails be removed from trees. In a subsequent order in July 2013, it directed that provisions ensuring the compliance of these directions be included in contracts of roads and pavements. “These precautions are not taken, and the government’s own audits show that compensatory forestation, under which 10 trees must be planted for every one tree felled is not being done,” said Mr Prasad.

 

 Hindu, Delhi, Tuesday 20th May 2014