More green cover needed, find land to create alternative forest for Delhi : HC

Stressing on the need for greater green cover in the national capital, the Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the authorities to find land to create another forest area besides the ridge.

Justice Jasmeet Singh told the conservator of forest that the whole of Delhi has high expectations of him and asked him to take up the issue on a war footing.

“Delhi needs alternate forest. Land needs to be used. Why are you not working on an alternate to central ridge?” the judge asked the officer.

“How does a city beat pollution besides what government is doing? The more green cover you have, better the life of citizens. How do you ignore this?” he added.

The official acknowledged encroachment of parts of the ridge and told the court about some places in the capital city having been identified as deemed forest areas.

Delhi government counsel told the court the city police have never said they will not provide assistance but the initiative for removal of encroachment from the ridge has to be taken by the authority concerned.

Considered the lungs of the national capital, the ridge is an extension of the Aravalli hill range and is a rocky, hilly and forested area.

It has been divided into four zones – south, south-central, central and north – due to administrative reasons. These four zones make up a total area of around 7,784 hectares.

Justice Singh asked the conservator of forest to inform the court about the how many trees have been planted, forest land lost and redeemed, as well as the area that was proposed to be used to develop an alternative forest.

“This has to be done on war footing. There has to be some bit of urgency. You will identify alternate land for forest, inform the court the area you are going to use and how big it is going to be,” the court told the senior official.

The court also asked the official to produce before it the journal maintained by the authorities with respect to tree plantation and upkeep.

The judge said over Rs 2 crore available in the ‘Delhi Green Fund’ set up by the high court should be utilised for tree plantation, and asked the forest official to file an affidavit on the issues it has raised.

The official informed the court over 2,700 trees have been planted on the roadside in consonance with its earlier direction to plant 10,000 trees. The court said 2,000 was a “petty” number of trees for a city like Delhi where lakhs of them should be planted.

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Amicus curiae Aditya N Prasad, who is assisting the court in the matter, raised issues with respect to the working structure of the forest department and said it was understaffed.

Advocate Gautam Narayan is also an amicus curiae (friend of court) in the matter which deals with issues concerning tree plantation in the city.

Earlier this year, the high court had directed the authorities to plant at least 10,000 trees in the city by utilising over Rs 70 lakh deposited by defaulting litigants as costs for the larger public good.

The matter will be heard next on September 27.

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