Delhi High Court has issued notice to Delhi Government to submit an action plan to the Special Task Force working under the supervision of the Supreme Court, stating the steps taken to deal with encroachments on forest lands.
Hearing a suo motu matter on the air pollution in Delhi, the Division Bench of Justice Sistani and Justice Bhambhani, asked the Delhi Together e to conduct surveys and identify areas where encroachments have taken place on forest areas.
In today's proceedings, the Chief Conservator of the Forest Department was present to submit the steps taken by the department in the area of tree plantation.
Conservator informed the court that Delhi has the maximum percentage of green coverage (21%) compared to any other city in Asia. Moreover, the department is aiming to increase the horizontal green coverage to 25% by 2025.
On the issue of annual plantation of trees, the Conservator informed the court that the department is willing to plant more trees but the same is hindered by the problem of encroachments on the forest land in Southern Ridge area.
It was also mentioned that once the encroachments are removed, the department will safeguard the areas with barbed wires and with the help of Eco Task Force.
When the court was informed of the fact that the plantation period of new trees only begins from February 15, it asked all the parties to suggest interim measures that can be taken in the period of 4 weeks.
During that deliberation, encroachments surfaced as a major issue that needs to be resolved. Justice Sistani went on to state that:
'Considering the present situation, planting of trees should be prioritised over encroachments'.
While enquiring about the implementation of the order passed by the court during the last hearing, the court observed that the problem of dust and midnight dumping is still not adequately addressed.
Therefore, the court directed municipal bodies to file affidavits in two days explaining steps taken by them in addressing the issue of midnight dumping and dust coming from roads and pavements.
The court also suggested that lining of pavements with shrubs may also help in reducing the dust.
The next date of hearing is December 05.