Delhi HC takes note of rising temperatures, says city could become ‘barren desert’ if apathy towards deforestation continues

- June 3, 2024
| By : Patriot Bureau |

The Delhi High Court made the observation in a matter concerning the constitution of an internal departmental committee for the preservation of forests in the city

BEATING THE HEAT: Delhiites are struggling to protect themselves from the scorching sun during daytime. Umbrellas, scarves, towels are all being used to avoid it PHOTO: GETTY

Taking note of the recent temperature spike to 52.3 degrees Celsius in the city, the Delhi High Court has observed that the national capital could become a barren desert if the present generation continues its apathetic view on deforestation.

Delhi’s Mungeshpur area on Wednesday logged a maximum temperature of 52.3 degrees Celsius, the highest ever recorded in the city.

“Judicial notice is taken of the fact that as recently as May 30, the official temperature recorded in Delhi was 52.3 degrees Celsius. It is not far-fetched to imagine this city becoming a barren desert if the present generation maintains an apathetic stance on deforestation,” Justice Tushar Rao Gedela said.

The high court, which had earlier appointed its former judge Najmi Waziri as the chairperson of an internal departmental committee of city officials dealing with the protection of forests in Delhi, was informed that Waziri was unable to perform his duties due to a lack of infrastructure.

“This court cannot countenance a situation where the chairperson (Justice Waziri) is unable to discharge his responsibilities due to lack of office space, secretarial and support staff, or transportation.

“However, rather than directing the Department of Forest and Wildlife to provide staff in a diverted capacity, it is considered appropriate to direct the department to pursue the matter in all earnest and ensure the approval is not delayed beyond June 15,” the court said.

As per a report of the chairperson of the committee filed through advocate R Arunadhri Iyer, the Delhi government was informed of the requirement for infrastructure, along with secretarial support staff and transportation, which would be needed for the chairperson to efficiently discharge his responsibilities.

The chief conservator of forests submitted that the approval for the requirements has already been put up to the minister concerned and will then be placed before the Cabinet and the lieutenant governor for final approval.

The amicus curiae appointed in the case submitted that once a judicial order is passed, the infrastructure and other facilities required for the efficient administration and discharge of responsibilities by the chairperson of the committee must be provided at the earliest.

The high court said after the approval is granted by the competent authority, the infrastructure development should be completed within the next 15 days.

“Since the next date of hearing is already fixed for July 29, it is expected that all the requirements of the chairperson and the committee will be in place and fully operational by then,” the court directed.

The court also accepted the suggestion of another amicus curiae to rename the committee, which will now be referred to as the ‘Special Empowered Committee’ instead of the ‘Internal Departmental Committee’.

“It is made clear once again that all concerned officers of the relevant departments are directed to attend all meetings as and when called for, except in special circumstances, with prior intimation to the chairperson if they are unable to attend a particular meeting,” the court said.

The court emphasised that these strict measures are to ensure the committee completes its responsibilities and references made to it, “keeping in view the worsening climatic conditions in Delhi.”

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On December 21 last year, the high court directed the constitution of the committee, consisting of the chief conservator of forests, the conservator of forests, the deputy conservator of forests (protection and monitoring), and the DCF concerned for the preservation of deemed forests.

It had stated that the committee would ensure concrete steps are taken for the protection, preservation, reclamation, and enhancement of forests, both protected and deemed.

The court had directed the Delhi government to provide suitable and adequate office accommodation for the committee and to bear all the expenses of its functioning, including suitable remuneration.   (With inputs from PTI)