New Delhi: A controversial project that requires the cutting of 17,000 trees in Delhi to make way for government officers' houses and a commercial complex was put on hold by the High Court today. "Has the tree-cutting been approved by the green tribunal," the court questioned as it put off the project till July 4, the next hearing.
- Controversial project requires cutting of 17,000 trees in Delhi
- The plan has provoked huge protests in Delhi
- Till the time I am a minister no tree will be cut, said Hardeep Puri
"We could understand if it was a road-widening work which is inevitable. You want to cut thousands of trees for housing. Can Delhi afford this?" the judge asked the government-run National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), which is overseeing the project.
The court's remarks followed the corporation's statement that jurisdiction in environmental clearance to a central government project was with the National Green Tribunal. The NBCC also said it had deposited Rs eight crore with the tree authority of the Delhi government for permission to cut trees.
Petitioner KK Mishra, an orthopaedic surgeon, said that since the decision involved the tree authority, the court could here it. Mr Mishra, in his petition, asks the court to stop the central government project to cut thousands of trees for what it calls "redevelopment" of seven colonies in south Delhi.
"More than 20,000 trees will be cut in the main south Delhi area. A CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report states there is a deficit of nine lakh trees in Delhi. I hope the court will put a stay on the order," the petitioner told reporters.
The plan has provoked huge protests in Delhi, with residents rubbishing the government's assurance that an equal number of saplings will be planted to make up for the loss.
Saplings, argue environmentalists, cannot replace fully grown trees for years in Delhi, which is among the most-polluted cities in the world.
Residents at Sarojini Nagar, one of the colonies chosen for the project, protested on Sunday by hugging trees in a redux of the 1970s "Chipko movement" to stop the chopping of trees in Uttarakhand.
Criticised on social media for justifying the project, Hardeep Singh Puri, the union minister of state for housing and urban development, said today: "Till the time I am a minister no tree will be cut and for every tree that is cut we will plant 10 trees. Green cover will go up by three times after re-development of seven colonies in South Delhi. Young activists are too fast to blame."