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Need to balance development and greenery, comprehensive plan required for tree felling: Delhi HC

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New Delhi, Feb 9 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Friday underscored the need to balance infrastructure development with greenery and asked authorities to come up with a "comprehensive plan" for transplantation or compensatory afforestation in relation to projects requiring felling of trees.

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Emphasising that efforts should be to "save something for the future generations", Justice Jasmeet Singh said the court has "little confidence" in the "sensitivity" of the officials dealing with permissions to fell trees.

The court, which had earlier stayed felling of trees in the capital in view of the "total non-application of mind" by officials while granting permissions, asked the Delhi government counsel to file data with respect to transplantation of trees as it remarked that besides ensuring development, the city authorities also owe it to the citizens that all the transplanted trees flourish.

The Delhi government counsel assured the court that the tree officers have received due training to pass reasoned orders on applications for permission for tree felling by entities and informed that presently, several requests for such permission, including 14 from government bodies, are pending.

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He said the projects have come to a halt in the city due to the blanket ban on tree felling.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) also sought directions to allow a tree officer to examine its application to cut down 215 trees in relation to its fourth-phase project.

Advocate Aditya N Prasad, appearing in the court on behalf of the petitioner, said the DMRC is seeking to fell around 14,000 trees.

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"This is not adversarial. We are only trying to strike a balance between development and greenery. Despite the rains, we are struggling with the AQI (air quality index)," the court said.

The court remarked that it wants to see if alternative measures are considered by the officials before the permission for tree felling is granted.

"I am inclined to allow (tree felling) for infrastructure as of today, but you have to give me a comprehensive plan. You have to give me a figure that these are the trees that have been transplanted. This is what has happened to the transplanted trees. How many transplanted trees or compensatory afforestation survived," the judge said.

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"The damage is irreversible. It cannot be undone. It is not so simple. Here there is no restitution," the court said as the government counsel said the orders of the tree officers can always be reviewed.

During the hearing, the court also expressed concern over reports claiming that the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here is seeking to fell more than 100 trees.

"The IIT wants to cut about 100 trees. Have they already cut those? It is in the papers," the court asked.

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The deputy conservator of forests (DCF) concerned, who was present in the court during the hearing, said the application for the cutting of "upwards of 100 trees" has been received, but it is yet to be processed in light of the high court's stay order.

The court was also informed that the standard operating procedure (SOP) in relation to tree felling is yet to be notified.

The court will continue to hear the matter on February 13. PTI ADS RC

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