Millennium Post

Courting greenery

Morning walk in Delhi has become a challenging task for people aiming for a healthier life as debris from deconcritisation of trees are left all over the footpaths. To overcome the problem, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has stepped in and pulled up all civic bodies for this apathy.

NGT’s move follows a petition by environmental activist Aditya Prasad. Talking about Prasad’s petition, the bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar said: ‘The pictures annexed with the affidavit provide an overall view relating to the apathy of coordination between the public authorities of NCT Delhi and statutory bodies.’

Explaining the problem in his affidavit, Prasad said, ‘Not only it adds to waste on roads but also leads to accidents as roots of deconcritised trees are very vulnerable and lead to falling of trees. This raises the chances of road blocking. Deconcritisation has to be done carefully, gradually and manually so that the root is not hurt. When the concrete is taken away, the void needs to be filled immediately with good quality soil and manure.’

Whenever big events are organised in the national capital, development work is carried out in the city on large scale. But once the events are over, officials get back to their usual way of working and necessary follow up action is not taken. The problem is, however, rooted in history.

The Delhi Preservation of Trees Act was passed in 1994 to ensure proper protection of trees in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The Delhi urban development ministry issued guidelines in 2000 to ensure healthy plantation of trees in the region. The guidelines said that an area of 6’x6’ around the trees should be left uncemented and ‘widening of roads up to the trunk of trees is to be avoided as roots come under the asphalted roads and gradually die....’

Around the same time, an affidavit filed with NGT alleged that rampant concretisation in the city because of unbridled civic construction works has led to reduction of green cover and depletion of the water table. The petition was filed by an environmental activist named Akash Vashishtha. Taking a serious view of the situation, NGT sent a notice to the Union ministry of urban development, which upheld the guidelines set by Delhi urban development ministry in the year 2000.

‘The same guidelines were extended to the country. But no one is following these guidelines despite the Delhi high court order which upheld the set norms. The petition I have filed seeks a response on the contempt of this order across Delhi. All concerned departments are just passing the buck from one to the other,’ Prasad said.

The NGT court has also pulled up civic bodies for wasting public money. ‘DDA vice chairman has been directed to exercise better supervision and to ensure that proper deconcretisation of trees takes place and public money is not wasted,’ said the court.

A woman in 50’s, who was struggling to enjoy morning walk accompanied by her daughter, on Rohtak Road in west Delhi said, ‘I do not know what corporation officials do with our taxes.

However, if I refuse to pay then it will be called a crime.’ Another man walking on the footpath in Hauz Khaz said, ‘You can see that the footpath is well maintained, but this concrete spread all over as a result of deconcritisation of a tree is reducing its worth.’

Though the NGT court claims to have directed DDA vice chairman Nimmo Dhar to supervise the work, when Millennium Post contacted Dhar, she said: ‘We are not responsible for any road or roadside activities. It is managed by various departments of the three corporations.’

‘The tribunal court has made a committee to inspect this matter, in which a member of our department was also there, that’s it,’ YS Maan, director press and information of North and East Delhi Municipal Corporation. ‘The court has instructed us and we are going to follow the instructions. When asked where the problem is, Maan said, ‘There are so many departments, particularly in this case horticulture and engineering departments are involved, so lack of coordination is possible.’

He also said, ‘The work of deconcritisation is managed by the maintenance department and we have done work in 18 colonies after court orders.’ However, Prasad said, ‘Eighteen colonies means very slow speed as there are thousands of colonies left all over Delhi. However, all work should be done by authorities without waiting for court orders.’
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