50-acre land earmarked for forest in Delhi: DDA in submission to HC | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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50-acre land earmarked for forest in Delhi: DDA in submission to HC

Apr 02, 2024 05:26 AM IST

The court directed DDA to file an affidavit indicating the steps that it will take for developing an alternative forest in the city

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on Monday told the Delhi high court that it has identified an area of 50 acres to develop an alternative forest for the Capital. The move came after the court repeatedly nudged the civic authority to give a large chunk of land to create a forest.

The Delhi high court was considering a contempt petition filed by climate activist Bhavreen Kandhari alleging that large-scale felling was being undertaken at the southern Ridge, which was a forest land. (HT Archive)
The Delhi high court was considering a contempt petition filed by climate activist Bhavreen Kandhari alleging that large-scale felling was being undertaken at the southern Ridge, which was a forest land. (HT Archive)

Taking note of the submission, the court directed DDA to file an affidavit indicating the steps that it will take for developing an alternative forest in the city.

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“Ms Manika Tripathy for DDA says that an area of 50 acres has been identified which will be developed as forest for Delhi. DDA will file an affidavit with details, coordinates and steps to be taken for developing 50 acres as forest within 10 days. What is the level of construction on the land. Ms Tripathi has assured that no further felling will take place,” a bench of justice Jasmeet Singh said in the order while posting the matter for further consideration for April 23.

The court was considering a contempt petition filed by climate activist Bhavreen Kandhari alleging that large-scale felling was being undertaken at the southern Ridge, which was a forest land.

On March 18, the high court issued contempt notice to DDA vice chairman and forest department’s principal secretary over the felling of more than 1,000 trees on the southern Ridge to construct a road from main Chhatarpur Road to SAARC University in violation of its orders. The court was of the view that the civic authority’s conduct of cutting 400 trees on its land and 700 trees on forest land clearly showed total apathy towards the orders passed by it and that the felling was even more shocking considering the orders passed by the Supreme Court.

“Rather, trees have been felled mindlessly, without any translocation, in complete contravention of orders passed by this court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The same clearly shows total apathy by the officers of the respondent authorities and total disregard and wilful violation of the orders passed by this court,” the court said in its March 18 order.

DDA, represented through advocate Tripathy, on Monday submitted that the civic authority misconstrued the Delhi government’s February 14 notification as the final permission for exempting around 4.9 hectares of land on which trees can be felled for construction and widening of approach road from Main Chhatarpur Road to SAARC University. However, it did not touch the trees meant to be translocated. She added that DDA felled the trees in public interest. Urging the court to not proceed further with the contempt notice issued to DDA’s vice chairman, advocate Tripathy admitted that there has been procedural lapses on part of the civic authority, but there was no wilful disobedience.

While advocate Aditya N Prasad and Gautam Narayan appearing for the petitioner submitted that DDA felled trees despite the high court’s August 31, 2023 order directing the forest department to not grant permission to the individuals for cutting trees and further informed the court about the permission granted for felling trees regarding important projects. Advocate Narayan contended that time and again DDA said in the numerous affidavits that there was no land available for compensatory plantation. “These departments need to function as per law. They cannot be let go scot free. Forest department is not kept in loop, while trees were cut,” Narayan added.

To be sure, the high court last year pulled up the Delhi government’s forest department over the identification of land measuring “only 0.23 acres” for the creation of an alternative forest in the national capital saying that the officials were making a mockery of the system. “Is this a joke? Only 0.23 acre you have identified... 0.23 acre is alternative forest? Show us some green cover... You are making a mockery of the system,” the judge said.

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