The Delhi high court placed all construction activities in the Nauroji Nagar area on hold where the Ministry of Urban Development and NBCC had planned to construct a World Trade Centre. The central government had argued to allow work to start.
Citing risks of choke points from traffic entry points to the Kidwai Nagar and Sarojini Nagar areas, the Delhi High court bench led by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao rejected the government’s plea to continue construction works in the Nauroji Nagar area of South Delhi. The only relief it provided was to allow repair work to continue to avoid any mishaps.
The government came under heavy fire when the Hindu Newspaper, followed by Iamrenew too, came out with revelations that government agencies used a heavily plagiarised Environmental Impact Assessment report for the Naoroji Nagar ‘redevelopment’ plan. Not only is the EIA report demonstrably fabricated, but it has been done so in school boyish fashion, with whole paras picked verbatim from another report that was meant to measure the impact on the environment, at Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. No word is available till date on the originator of the said report, the consultant firm Hubert Enviro Care Systems.
NBCC, a central government firm, has been entrusted with the contract for the redevelopment, on 571 acres of land. The case has already drawn attention to itself by the sloppy logic given for wholesale destruction of mature trees to enable the project.
In the seven colonies which were under the radar for redevelopment by the NBCC, 16000 trees were to be uprooted for the works. Namely Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Thyagaraja Nagar, Mohammadpur, Kasturba Nagar and Srinivaspuri, the court explicitly asked the Delhi government to submit a reviewed copy of all 6 or 7 including Nauroji Nagar. The Delhi government will have to file an affidavit with the revised plan as soon as within 2 weeks and gave the date for the case hearing on October 3rd the day after Gandhi Jayanti.
Meanwhile the Delhi government also cut a sorry picture, with its own entreaty to allow tree felling again, ostensibly for a waste to energy plant it wants to set up, mandated by the Supreme Court. The judges made it clear they will not contradict any orders of the Supreme Court, even as any other permissions as well tree felling anywhere in the city will continue until the next hearing on 6th Sept. Vimlendu Jha, an environmentalist commented that the Delhi government had not responded to questions raised by the court, specifically how can a tree be equal to a sapling, and yet they are keen to have the stay lifted. The banter between the parties in the court has turned into a war of wits as one side quipped that Delhi Preservation of Trees Authority had become ironically more focused on authorising tree felling rather than tree preservation.
For residents of Delhi and everywhere else in India, in fact, it would be instructive to follow the arguments as well as the progress of this case, as the country urbanises rapidly, and risks placing the quality of life of all city dwellers at great risk with haphazard planning and ignorance of the environment. It could be a great template for the struggle for saving your environment, or perhaps, how indifference can lead to heavy costs paid for by future generations.