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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on November 29, Monday, sought the response of the Union government to the allegation that construction work for the Central Vista Redevelopment Project was a major cause of air pollution.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner, said that the Central Vista works were going on despite the ban imposed by the Supreme Court on construction activities in Delhi-NCR to reduce air pollution.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana said, “We are struggling to control pollution. Whether it is Central Vista or industry or anything else. We will ask them [the government] to explain. Don’t flag certain issues and focus on those. Otherwise, the issue will be diverted.”
“We will ask the Solicitor General to explain the Central Vista issue. We have asked him what’s the role of the Central government,” CJI Ramana added.
The bench, also comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant, asked the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta to get instructions from the Union government and respond to Singh’s submissions.
According to India Today, the apex court asked the Union government, “What are you doing to ensure states are complying with directions? You say compliance is there; directions have been issued; everything is good. But at the end of the day, what is happening? The result is zero.”
“Today’s pollution level [AQI] is 419. This is growing day by day,” CJI Ramana said.
The Supreme Court also directed that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will have to take the permission of the chief conservator of forests and the environment ministry for felling of trees for the construction of the fourth phase of the Metro project, the report said. It also directed that the government should involve NGOs, members of civil society, students and others in planting trees in the city.
The bench made these observations while hearing a writ petition Aditya Dubey (Minor) and others versus Union of India and others which seeks directions to reduce the air pollution in Delhi-NCR. The matter will be next heard on December 2.
Felling of trees
On September 5, the Supreme Court allowed Delhi Metro’s proposal to cut 7,229 and transplant 5,545 trees for construction of three new lines, in public interest, the Indian Express reported.
The corridors are Janakpuri-RK Ashram Marg (28.9 km), Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.55 km) and Aerocity-Tughlaqabad (23.62 km). The daily had also reported on August 13 that the Aerocity-Tughlaqabad corridor, which will cut through the ecologically sensitive southern ridge and south central ridge, has been approved by the Central Empowered Committee. The CEC report said that 4,766 of the 6,961 trees will be felled and the rest transplanted.
For the Central Vista project, only 22 heritage trees had to be relocated to the eco-park, Badarpur, the government told parliament on July 23, The Hindu reported. The Deccan Herald on May 7 reported, citing an official from the environment and forest official from Delhi, that the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) got permission to transplant 400 trees for the project.
While the government said the trees would be re-planted and for every tree uprooted and removed, 10 more saplings would be planted, critics told the National Herald that most such plans and platitudes are forgotten within months. The critics also asked where the fresh 4,000 saplings are going to be planted.
According to the daily, the Delhi forest department, in an RTI reply, said that no trees census has been conducted in Delhi for the past 10 years and in the NDMC area for the last two decades. The report questioned that without such a census, how did the government decide to uproot the trees.