In a park in New Friends Colony, CV Raman Marg, workers have been digging near the main road to install pipes on PWD’s order. The issue here is that they are pulling up the soil very close to the trees. According to an NGT order, digging within 1 metre radius of trees is prohibited.
However, the permission expired on March 31. Even yesterday, I saw that the work was going on. I told them to stop or at least leave the mandated space while digging. They did not listen to me, nor did they give me any contact details.
After I contacted the RWA, I got the number of a DJB official. He said that he will inspect the work and will make sure that they keep the required distance. Later in the evening, I spoke to him and he said that they are going to follow the rules from now. But the next day, I again saw the work was going on like before. Then I called the police, who came and put a stop to their work.
But when the police left, the workers resumed their work. So, I called the police again. I also contacted the Forest Department. The Forest Officer came down and rebuked the workers and said that they should have adhered to the rules. They got the work stopped.
Then the labourers started putting the mud back in the pits. Now, the Forest Department will be calling the DJB for hearing in the next couple of days. Due to this work, 17 trees have been damaged.
Under the definition of felling of trees, damaging roots and burning trees, what they are doing is illegal. And under Section-8 of Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, they are going to take action as the trees have been damaged. For now, the work has been stopped. We are hoping they don’t continue to damage more trees.
Another issue that has vexed me relates to animal rights. I have been visiting Niti Bagh – where there is a park right next to a vet’s chamber. A big signboard has been put up on the park’s entrance, which reads that dogs are not allowed. This is right opposite the Niti Bagh Club.
A couple of years ago, I have gone for a meeting in the DDA office. I spoke to the Vice Chairman, and he passed a rule that all signboards banning pets should not be allowed. Rather, if required, a time should be allotted for the pets to visit. Yet, we find many such boards in various parks.
This board was put because of a few people living in the colony – who do not interact with animals and are afraid of them. They are even scared of small puppies because they don’t have any experience of interacting with animals and they expect other people to react the same way. But children are generally friendly with animals.
I complained about it and also contacted the SO there. Then I wrote to Maneka Gandhi’s office. I also contacted an MCD official. But even after all this, when I checked, the boards were still there in the park.
Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) also gave a notice. But in vain. The next step would be to inform the senior officials at SDMC. They need to get these boards removed. A similar incident took place in Panchsheel Park where someone had taken their dog to a park and the residents had objected. They even put a signboard. After someone from the area contacted Maneka Gandhi’s office, the boards were removed.
People contact me through my NGO when they require help to remove these signboards. We guide them on how to take action. But then the MCD does not really care –they just want to make the RWAs happy!
Verhaen Khanna, a commercial pilot by profession, is also an environment activist. He is the founder of the New Delhi Nature Society-
As told to Shruti Das