Delhi HC orders removal of concrete around trees, questions point of such ‘beautification’

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the authorities here to immediately remove the concrete around trees in Bhikaji Cama Place Complex and questioned the rationale behind such “beautification”.

Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and forest department officials on a contempt plea over the concretisation of the trees and the failure to take prompt action on a complaint regarding the damage caused to the trees.

Petitioner Aditya N Prasad said he learnt in August that an enclosed platform (chabutara) was being constructed around the standing trees in the Bhikaji Cama Place Complex by the DDA for “beautification” purposes.

“What is this beautification? On pavement you make concrete structures? It is for trees. You are restricting movement. What is the point?” Justice Singh asked during the hearing.

The court asked the counsel for the forest department to file a detailed response as to why no prompt action was taken by its officials against the concretisation in order to protect the trees even after a complaint was made.

“I will shut your department. You are totally incompetent.. How do you address this promptly after 50 days? This is not going in the right direction. This is painful,” the court told the counsel for the forest department.

“Respondents shall ensure that the concrete around the trees is removed immediately,” the court ordered.

The court also directed the conservator of forests to submit a status report on the extent of violations of the order pertaining to concretisation of trees and remedial measures undertaken.

The petitioner said there are orders of the National Green Tribunal that mandate leaving one metre open space around the trunk of trees and prohibit any construction activity near it.

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Prasad alleged there was also wilful disobedience of the high court’s directions to the forest department to set up a telephone helpline and website where citizens can lodge complaints about damage to trees and specifically described the manner in which “prompt” action is to be taken once the complaint has been received.

He submitted that in spite of a complaint having been made, the construction work continued and no preventive measures were taken. He claimed his complaint was relayed to the division concerned only after 48 days.

“The status on the Green Helpline website of the department of Forests and Wildlife, GNCTD regarding the Complaint made by the Petitioner reflects that the same has been rejected as a false complaint’ and no action was taken to prevent the violation of the Orders of this Hon’ble Court or prevent the damage being caused to the Trees,” the petition said.

The matter would be heard next on January 30.

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