NGT extends till July 27 status quo order on tree felling in south Delhi colonies

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NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today extended till July 27 its order to maintain status quo on tree felling in seven south Delhi colonies by the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry and the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC).

A bench comprising Justice R S Rathore and Expert Member S S Gabrayal granted more time to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Department of Forests of AAP government, Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and others in the case.

During the hearing, the NBCC sought clarification of the July 2 order passed by the NGT, directing that there shall be no cutting or destruction of the trees till further order by this tribunal.

The counsel for the NBCC said the order only related to felling of trees and not on civil construction going on at the project site in Nauroji Nagar here.

He argued that work has completely halted on the site and a loss of Rs 25 lakh per day was being caused due to the NGT’s order.

The bench, however, refused to pass any order and asked the parties to file their replies, while posting the matter for hearing on July 27.

On the last date of hearing, the tribunal had said not a single tree would be cut and status quo be maintained on tree felling till further orders.

The green panel had directed the project proponents to make a categorical statement and inform it about the exact number of trees proposed to be cut for the redevelopment project for about half a dozen colonies.

“Therefore, even though we give sufficient time to the project proponent to file their replies to the interim relief, but we are satisfied that a prima facie case is made out for grant of ad-interim order in the nature of protective order so as to protect environment … And its preservation is essential.

“Hence applying the precautionary principle, we direct the Respondent No. 1 and 2 to maintain status-quo, particularly in the matter relating felling of the trees and direct that there shall be no felling/cutting/destruction of the trees till further order by this tribunal,” the bench had said.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO Society for Protection of Culture, Heritage, Environment, Traditions and Promotion of National Awareness, Green Circle and city resident Utkarsh Bansal seeking a stay on the proposed felling of more than 16,000 trees for re-development of the colonies.

The petitioners claimed that environmental clearance has been granted for seven general pool residential colonies without taking into account the possible adverse effect on the ecology.

It said clearance had been granted for colonies in Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Nauroji Nagar through the NBCC and in Kasturba Nagar, Thyagraj Nagar, Srinivaspuri and Mohammadpur through the CPWD.

The plea claimed that planting of saplings at another location as compensatory afforestation would not reduce the burden put on the environment due to the large-scale felling of trees.

The petition has made the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the CPCB, the Delhi Development Authority, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the CPWD and others as parties in the case.

Anil Sood, president of the NGO, said the Centre had given clearance to the projects without considering several factors, such as existing population density and the impact of cutting 16,500 trees on the ambient air quality in the area.

The plea said an environment impact assessment report for the project around south Delhi showed that 11,000 trees will be cut in Sarojini Nagar, 1,465 in Nauroji Nagar, 3,033 in Netaji Nagar and another 520 will be cut in Kasturba Nagar, out of a total of 19,976 trees in these areas.

The re-development scheme plans to replace existing flats of Type I to IV with a built-up area of around 7.49 lakh square metres with Type II to VI units with built-up area of around 29.18 lakh square metres with supporting infrastructure facilities.

The projects will also develop government office accommodation of nearly 2.42 lakh square metres in Netaji Nagar.

The total estimated project cost of Rs 32,835 crore includes maintenance and operation costs for 30 years and will be completed in five years in a phased manner.

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