Justice Najmi Waziri was informed that 77420 trees were authorised to be cut down in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021 according to an affidavit filed by the Delhi government’s Forest Department, who was hearing a contempt case involving the preservation of trees in the city.
“This city can’t afford to lose 77,000 trees”, observed the court and therefore asked the Forest Department to comment on the petitioner’s calculations and to provide any information regarding categories that were allegedly left out of the earlier affidavit.
If the illegal tree felling, trees cut down for forest clearance, unnoticed felling of trees, and those lost to the storm, etc –which are not accounted for in the affidavit are taken into consideration the figures may be twice or four times the current number of over 77,000, said the counsel appearing in the matter.
The petitioner’s knowledgeable attorney, Aditya N Prasad, has drawn the court’s attention to a calculation (based on the affidavit provided by the Delhi government’s forest department) that states that 77420 trees were allowed to be cut down in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. In the last three years, this equates to about three trees each hour. The court noted that these numbers only apply to trees that were permitted to be cut down in accordance with sections 9, 29, and 30 of the Delhi Trees Preservation Act.
The court ordered that the Forest Department file an affidavit on the missing data, as well as its response to the figure of three trees being lost every hour.
Based on a “green census” that was conducted in a specific area of the city, 77 trees were discovered to be gone; however, after official verification, the number of lost trees increased to 177.
The current contempt plea by Neeraj Sharma relates to the trees in the Vikas Marg area in East Delhi.
In the hearing the court raised concerns about the city’s green cover and the transplantation of trees in certain areas.
The court further stated that it would hear the contempt case on July 13 and then deliver an appropriate ruling. On June 3, the court found certain PWD employees and a member of the Delhi Police to have violated court orders concerning the preservation and protection of trees.
Earlier this year, the court pointed out that it would be logical and prudent to transplant such trees instead of cutting down fully grown trees. The court stayed any further felling of trees on 19 May and said there was no other way to mitigate the ecological and environmental degradation in the city.