No trees can be cut at least till July 19 for the controversial project in Delhi, said the national green court today. Last week, the Delhi High Court had put on hold the housing project that requires cutting of about 17,000 trees to clear way for homes for government employees besides a commercial complex.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) and Central Public Works Department (CPWD), to maintain status quo of not cutting the trees for the redevelopment of seven south Delhi colonies until further orders.
The tribunal was hearing a plea by an NGO which claimed that environmental clearance has been granted for seven central government residential colonies without taking into account the project's adverse impact on the ecology.
The green panel wants to be informed about the exact number of trees which are proposed to be cut for the redevelopment project. The bench headed by acting NGT chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim will hear the case on July 19.
The High Court on Wednesday had asked the agencies which are overseeing the project if the green tribunal had approved the cutting of trees as it put off the project till July 4, the next hearing.
"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).
The redevelopment plan involving areas under Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Nauroji Nagar, Kasturba Nagar, Thyagraj Nagar, Srinivaspuri and Mohammadpur triggered huge protests across Delhi, with residents rubbishing the government's assurance that an equal number of saplings will be planted to compensate 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.
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."