Nobody had imagined even in their wildest dreams that just two weeks after celebrating the World Environment Day, the national capital would wake up to the awful news of the plan to chop down nearly 17,000 trees. Apparently, the trees are being cut to make way for redevelopment projects around seven neighbourhoods, which include Sarojini Nagar, Nauroji Nagar and Netaji Nagar.
According to a Hindustan Times article, the environment impact assessment report for the projects in south Delhi reported that 11,000 out of 13,128 trees will be cut in Sarojini Nagar. 1,465 trees will be cut in Nauroji Nagar, 3,033 trees will be chopped off from Netaji Nagar and another 520 will be felled in Kasturba Nagar for the redevelopment of central government accommodations in the area.
Following an uproar among residents and activists over the felling of thousands of trees, the Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said “compensatory plantation” was being carried out. He tweeted, “Compensatory plantation of trees is being carried out in a ratio of 1:10, i.e. ten trees are being planted against the loss of one tree. Thus, 1,35,460 trees shall be planted, which will create an ‘Urban Forest’.”
Compensatory plantation of trees is being carried out in a ratio of 1:10, i.e. ten trees are being planted against the loss of one tree. Thus, 1,35,460 trees shall be planted, which will create an “Urban Forest”. (4/8)
— MoHUA (@MoHUA_India) June 21, 2018
The burning issue has now taken a political turn, with Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and the Delhi government blaming each other for permitting this deforestation drive.
Speaking to the media on Saturday, Vardhan said, “For the non-forest areas, whatever local permission is to be given is done by the Delhi government. It is directly under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government and not governed by us.”
In response to this, AAP national spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said the following in a tweet directed against Vardhan: “The file about ‘Redevelopment Project’ says Environment Clearance for the project has been approved by MoEF & CC, GOI vide letter dt 27.11.2017. Did your Department give Environment clearance to this project?”
Meanwhile, in the midst of this political mud-slinging and blame-game, citizen groups have started a campaign against the project. They held a candlelight march at Sarojini Nagar on Saturday. A ‘hug-a-tree’ campaign is also being organised – modelled on the lines of the Chipko Movement in the 1970s. Pleas to stop the project and save the trees have been filed both in the Delhi High Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Young students have come forward against the felling of trees and are organising mass campaigns to register their protest.
According to a recent WHO report, India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world – and Delhi is sixth on the list. Not just this, heavy pollution was reported in Delhi recently this summer, with very thick layers of dust surrounding the national capital. This was truly unprecedented – because till now, the pollution levels in Delhi used to shoot up to the ‘severe’ category only during winters.
With Delhi already facing so much pollution, the cutting of 16,500 trees (that too in an area which has the best of Delhi’s green cover) to construct a colony and market area is a suicidal and disastrous move. This is a step ahead in creating a permanent all-weather gas-chamber in Delhi.