The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to obtain permission of the Chief Forest Conservator and the Environment Ministry for felling of trees for construction of Phase IV of metro project.
A bench, headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, directed the DMRC to file an application before the Chief Conservator of Forests under Delhi government under the Forest Conservation Act, seeking permission to fell trees for the Phase IV expansion plan. It further directed the Chief Conservator to forward the application with their recommendations within one month to the Environment Ministry.
The top court directed the Delhi government to frame a comprehensive plan for planting trees and sapling in Delhi and bring it on record. It said the government should involve NGOs, members of civil society, students and others in planting trees in the national capital, and submit the plan within 12 weeks.
The DMRC sought the court’s permission for felling of trees for construction of Phase IV metro project which is 20 km long — from Aerocity to Tughlakabad. Around 10,000 trees will have to be felled for the project. Citing the central empowered committee report, the DMRC had argued that forest clearance was not required as trees proposed to be felled do not constitute forest.
The top court-appointed green panel — the central empowered committee – had told the apex court that planted trees cannot be treated as forest under the Forest Act and only naturally grown trees would come under its ambit. However, the apex court had declined to accept this contention.
“We are not going to accept that all planted trees are not forest. It would lead to chaos. Who will decide whether a tree is planted one or grown naturally?”
The apex court had reserved orders on the DMRC’s application on November 11.
The committee’s counsel had submitted that it took the stand following the apex court’s verdict in 1996 that trees planted in a project area cannot be branded as forests. “The Government of India guidelines specifically exclude all plantations raised outside the notified forests/recorded forests from the purview of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Only lands with naturally grown trees outside the notified/reserved forest are treated as deemed forest,” it said.