Not a single tree would be cut and status quo be maintained on tree felling till further orders in seven South Delhi colonies by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the National Buildings Construction Corporation, the National Green Tribunal directed today.
A bench headed by Acting NGT Chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim issued notices to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, NBCC, Central Pollution Control Board, Central Public Works Department, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and others, asking them to file their responses before July 19, the next date of hearing.
The green panel 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.
The NGT said that although the case commenced before the High Court, but keeping in mind the likely imminent danger to the ecology and the proposal of the project proponent to fell around 17,000 trees, was likely to seriously impact the environment unless a proper impact assessment is done.
It also impleaded the Ministry of Environment and Forests as a party in the case and sought its reply in the matter before next date of hearing.
"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 said.
During the hearing, the senior advocate Kailash Vasudeva and NGO president Anil Sood said the proposed felling of trees involved more than 17,000 trees which will destroy the ecology and adversely affect the environment.
The submission was vehemently opposed by the Ministry and the project proponent and said that number of trees mentioned by the applicants was an exaggeration.
They also contended that since the matter was pending with the Delhi High Court, the tribunal should restrain itself for passing any interim order.
The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO - Society for Protection of Culture, Heritage, Environment, Traditions & 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 petitioner 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 will be cut in Nauroji Nagar, 3,033 will be chopped off from 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 sq m with supporting infrastructure facilities.
The projects will also develop government office accommodation of nearly 2.42 lakh sq m 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.