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DDA Felled 1051 Trees Illegally, Lied To The SC, Faces Criminal Contempt

Southern Ridge, called Delhi’s lung, was damaged. Yet, nobody is ready to own responsibility. Rather everybody is passing the back. Please click to read the full inside story…
Indian Masterminds Stories

Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is caught in a web of its own making. It a being accused of illegal tree felling. On top of it, the Supreme Court of India has initiated criminal contempt of court proceedings against it for misleading the court. The case will come up for hearing before the SC tomorrow.

The case involves felling of 1051 trees in Maidan Garhi area of South Delhi, around Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. More than 60 per cent of these trees were part of the Southern ridge, known as Delhi’s lungs. As per Delhi Prevention of Trees Act, not a single tree can be felled – even in non-ridge area – without forest department’s permission. And even if it permits, one has to plant 10 trees for every tree felled. Rather, he has to deposit the amount for plantation with the forest department.

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RIDGE IS SANCROSANCT

Conditions are more stringent for felling trees in ridge areas. Firstly tree-cutting is completely prohibited in the ridge. Even if a tree has to be felled, one needs permission from three authorities – the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court in 2002 as a watchdog for environmental issues, the Ridge Management Board (RMB), and then the Supreme Court itself.

DDA under the pressure of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Mr VK Saxena, cut down 422 trees in the non-ridge area and 629 trees in the Southern Ridge, without depositing the prescribed fee for the plantation of 10X plants, nor did it seek SC’s permission before felling trees in the ridge.

LG PERSONALLY INVOLVED

Mr Saxena visited the site on February 3 and ordered DDA and its contractors to remove all the bushes and plans as fast as they could. DDA’s Executive Engineer in an email to the Chief Engineer noted clear instructions of the LG to cut down the trees that were ‘hindrance’ in way of widening of a 2.5 kms road to Central Armed Police Force Institute of Medical Sciences (CAPFIMS).

The DDA deposited the required money for re-plantation in Forest Department’s account on February 29. But, it had already felled all the 1051 trees.

If that was not the height of irony, DDA approached the SC on March 4, requesting permission to cut the 629 trees in the ridge area for constructing the road. The SC refused to grant the blanket permission saying felling 629 trees in Delhi’s lung would not be possible. Instead, it asked the DDA to suggest three options though which number of trees to be felled could be minimised.

DDA LIED TO SC

DDA despite being fully aware that the trees had already been chopped, promised the SC to constitute a committee to explore options as mandated by it. Until then, The SC was not aware that the trees had been cut. It was informed by a local resident Bindu Kapurea through a civil contempt petition that there were no trees to be saved and that DDA was lying and misleading the court.

The SC incensed at DDA’s imprudence and audacity to mislead the court, not only converted the civil contempt case into criminal contempt but also asked the DDA to explain whether its action was taken under LG’s pressure after his February 3 visit to the site. 

Fireworks are expected to fly as the case comes up for hearing on July 12. Shall keep you updated on the developments.  


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