The Delhi High Court on Thursday stayed any further felling of trees in the national capital, saying there is no other way to mitigate the ecological and environmental degradation in the city.
Justice Nazmi Waziri, who was hearing a contempt case concerning the preservation of trees, noted that over 29,000 trees were cut down in the past three years in the city and questioned if Delhi has the “luxury” to bear such numbers.
“We have stopped felling of trees… Till the next date, no felling of trees,” the judge said as the case was listed for further hearing on June 2.
“A total of 29,946 trees were allowed to be cut in the past three years, which on computation comes to 27 trees per day i.e. 1.13 per hour,” the judge noted. The court stated that there is no record with respect to the girth and the age of the trees that were allowed to be cut down or the status of the corresponding transplantation of trees and emphasised that large scale denudation of fully grown trees worsens the ecology.
“It would therefore in the fitness of things in the public interest as well as for the sake of the environment for present and future generations that tree felling in Delhi is not permitted till the next date so as to ensure that felling is done only when it is fully assured by the applicant that the trees would at least be transplanted. Surely there is no other way to mitigate the ecological and environmental degradation in the city,” the court ordered.
“Ex facie it is evident that large scale denudation of fully grown trees only worsens the ecological balance of the city. Air pollution needs to be mitigated on an urgent basis. Trees are a great source for mitigation,” the court added.
The status report filed by the Deputy Conservator of Forests for the central zone informed that in total, 13,490 trees were permitted to be cut and 16,456 trees were directed to be transplanted in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021.
The contempt plea being heard by the court was filed by Neeraj Sharma, represented by advocate Aditya N Prasad, and pertains to the trees in the Vikas Marg area in East Delhi.
Last month, the court had expressed its concern over the cutting down of fully grown trees and said that it would be logical and prudent to transplant such trees instead of cutting them down and the “self-defeating exercise” by the Forest Department of the Delhi government “needs to be arrested at the earliest.” The court had then noted the petitioner’s claim that a tree is cut down every hour in Delhi under official sanction and thus sought information from the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) on the number of trees that were permitted to be cut down in the last three year.
The court had emphasised the importance of even a solitary tree in any neighbourhood and stated that compensatory afforestation which is “geographically distant and nascent compensatory plantation can hardly be of any respite or actual compensation” and that it would be appropriate that the Tree Officers give due consideration to transplantation of each tree which is sought to be cut before granting any further permissions.