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Thursday, November 23, 2017

NGT Matter

An application has been filed by environmental activist Sh. Shobhit Chauhan regarding the indiscriminate felling of 1,961 full grown mature trees to be undertaken for the construction of International Exhibition cum Convention Centre at Sector 25, Dwarka, New Delhi. Through this petition, it has been suggested by Mr. Shobhit that the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of NCT of Delhi, the project proponent Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation should explore the possibility of transplantation of the mature trees rather than recklessly felling the trees and earning revenue by sale of timber obtained from the trees. It is an undisputed fact that trees are natural air filters and have pollutant absorbent capabilities which are need of the hour at the time when pollution levels in NCT of Delhi are alarmingly high. The petition filed in National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi emphasises that due regard be given to compensatory plantation which should be undertaken around Dwarka subcity in order to maintain the ecological balance in the Asia’s largest subcity housing a population of eleven lakh citizens rather than afforestation between the barrage of ITO and Yamuna Bank Metro Station which is geographically 35 KMs away from the site of deforestation.

It is pertinent to note that transplantation is not an uncommon practise in India and has been existing/been followed in various states of India including NCT of Delhi. It has been found through research that the full-grown trees have a greater contribution in maintaining the ecological balance as compared to young saplings which will take a considerable amount of time to attain a level where it can contribute to positive cause of environment.

There are 19 species of trees erect at the project site totalling a number of 1,961 which include trees like Neem, Babool, et cetra that are present in large numbers which possess major medicinal values, the deforestation of such trees shall lead to depletion of natural resources.

One of the key points that the applicant emphasises is that development should comprise of the essential ingredient of ‘sustainable’ development since public interest will serve its rightful purpose and it will uphold the objectives of Environmental Protection Act, Article 48A and Article 51-A(g) of the Constitution of India.

The applicant supports development but the degradation of environment can not be ignored considering the alarming levels of pollution already existing and increasing in NCT of Delhi and as such the felling of 1,961 trees shall further add to the plight of residents of Dwarka where large scale development including embassies of various countries, ISBT, et cetra are proposed to be built which shall add to the pollution level exemplarily in the years to come.

On 21st November 2017, the matter titled Shobhit Chauhan vs. Union of India & Ors was listed for admission at National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi before the Hon’ble Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, Hon’ble Justice Dr. Jawad Rahim - Judicial Member, Hon’ble Mr. Bikram Singh Sajwan - Expert Member. Advocate Shivam Bajaj, counsel on behalf of the applicant emphasised that the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Delhi Government should consider transplantation of full grown trees and compensatory plantation in periphery of Dwarka in order to maintain the ecological balance of the sub-city at present and in the future. Hon’ble Justice Swatanter Kumar has orally observed that specific areas for compensatory plantation must be designated and a reply is sought from the Respondent authorities within one week. The matter has been listed for 11th December 2017.

BRIEF BACKGROUND:
• The Government of NCT of Delhi through The Secretary, Department of Environment, Forests and Wildlife have issued an Extraordinary Gazette Notification via No. F. 103/COT/WFD/16-17/3539-48 dated 16.08.2017 to exempt the area of 89.72 Hectares from the provisions of Section 9 of The Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1995.

• The aforementioned notification states that there will be felling of 1961 trees from Dwarka and compensatory afforestation shall be undertaken at Yamuna Flood Plains between ITO Barrage and Yamuna Bank Metro Station which will be maintained for 7 years and compensation amount of Rs. 11,17,77,000/- (Rupees Eleven Crores Seventeen Lacs Seventy Seven thousand) shall be deposited by the Project proponent.

Citizen's reporter
Shobhit Chauhan

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