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Protection of Jahanpanah forest serious issue, says HC; seeks responses of Centre, AAP govt


Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Delhi High Court Friday sought responses of the Centre, AAP government and land owning agency DDA on a plea seeking protection of the Jahanpanah City Forest, spanning 435 acres in South Delhi, from encroachment and deforestation.
Terming the issue raised in the PIL as "serious", a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Brijesh Sethi issued notices to the Environment Ministry, Delhi government, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation seeking their stand before the next date of hearing on August 23.
"It is a serious issue," the court said and directed authorities to "file status reports with regard to the allegations and acts of commission and omission indicated in the petition" by a lawyer -- Amit Gupta -- who has claimed that "consistent negligence" by the Delhi Development Authority in discharging its duties has led to rampant encroachment, loss of forest cover as well as dumping of garbage in the forest area.
Apart from that, the area continues to be a security threat for visitors due to non-appointment of guards to protect the forest, the plea, filed through advocates Mansi Kujreja, Vidhi Goel and Aarushi, has said.
The petition, referring to various news reports regarding the issues plaguing the forest area, has said 30 guards were sanctioned to provide security there, but none have been appointed.
Gupta, in his plea, has contended "there has been a consistent negligence by the respondent - DDA and its officials in discharging their duties to protect and save the Jahanpanah City Forest from destruction and loss of forest cover.
The situation still remains the same as it was over 10 years ago and there is rampant encroachment, loss of forest cover, garbage and debris dumping and loss of ecology.
"The area still continues to be a security threat for visitors of the Jahanpanah City Forest and there has been no concrete action by the DDA to increase the security in the area which would act as a deterrent to the anti-social activities and dumping of waste within the premises," it has said.
The petition has also claimed that authorities have not taken any action to ensure proper water supply to the flora and increase the forest cover.
"It is submitted that the continuous loss of tree cover is a matter of serious concern and the green patch may be slowly reduced to a forest only on paper, unless the respondents start taking incremental actions immediately," it has said.
The petition has sought demarcation of the area to stop encroachment, efficacious afforestation to compensate for the loss of 6070 acres of forest land, providing proper water supply by way of functioning tube well and rainwater harvesting systems and ensuring an effective mechanism to prevent illegal felling of trees as well as forest fires during summer.
Apart from that, the plea also seeks directions to authorities to ensure there are armed security guards inside and around the forest for the safety of the visitors as well as to prevent illegal felling of trees.
It has also sought removal of garbage dumped at various places in the forest, repair of the boundary walls surrounding the area and "appointing of an independent auditor under court supervision to audit the accounts of public money spent on maintenance and to keep the area green".

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First Published: May 31 2019 | 6:15 PM IST

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