NBCC defends its decision to fell 14,000 trees

NBCC defends its decision to fell 14,000 trees

Will compensate by planting 2 lakh trees

Activists from various environmental organisations display placards during a demonstration to save trees, at Sarojini Nagar area. PTI photo.

Amid a major hue and cry over felling of around 14,000 trees for the redevelopment of residential colonies here, the state-owned NBCC today defended its decision, saying it would compensate the move by increasing the green cover 15 times.

Underscoring the need for redevelopment, NBCC CMD Anoop Kumar Mittal said that several decades old colonies had hundreds of "unserviceable and unlivable units out of a total of 12,970 flats as of now and the same would be transformed into the most modern colonies with 25,667 units having an extensive green cover, sewage treatment plants, organised parking and other amenities.

He said in a bid to protect the environment, NBCC would be planting not only saplings but also 10-foot-long trees whose care would be properly taken as long as required.

The government has announced that it would be cutting over 14,000 trees for building over 25,000 flats for government employees in seven colonies of south Delhi.

The government-owned real estate development body is redeveloping Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Nauroji Nagar, while the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is managing the rest four colonies in Kasturba Nagar, Thyagraj Nagar, Srinivaspuri and Mohammadpur.

A major protest broke out against the decision, with locals and activists launching their own "Chipko Movement", a forest conservation movement where people embraced trees to prevent them from being cut in Uttarakhand (then Uttar Pradesh) in the 1970s.

NBCC today agreed in the Delhi High Court not to cut trees till July 4. It made the statement after a vacation bench of the high court comprising Justices Vinod Goel and Rekha Palli said that it would impose an interim stay on tree felling.

At a press conference, the NBCC CMD defended the move, saying it is a sacrifice that one has to make for development and they would be compensating by increasing the green cover 15 times.

NBCC, which is developing three of the seven colonies, sought to assuage concerns saying green cover in these residential localities will go up to 50-55 percent from an average of 14 percent at present.

The colonies, Mittal said, had become unlivable and so need to be redeveloped at a cost of around Rs 30,000 crore. The projects are self-funded.

Around 13,000 trees were remaining to be cut in seven redevelopment projects in the national capital and 2 lakh trees will be planted, Mittal said when asked about reports of 16,000-17,000 trees to be felled for these projects.

NBCC has already got permission from the Delhi government and other authorities to fell 3,748 trees in Naurojit Nagar and Netaji Nagar, where 10,000 trees will be planted apart from paying for green coverage, he said.

Asked if the matter has been politicised, he said, "It has not been politicised. People are now environment sensitive. We have to develop Delhi not for 1-2 years but for 100-200 years."

"We have taken permission from the state government to cut trees and not from the union environment ministry," he added.

While redeveloping the colonies, Mittal said special care and attention is being given towards retaining a maximum number of existing trees and incorporating them in a large cluster as an integral part of landscaping design scheme.

Stating that the locations for the planting of two lakh trees is being identified, the NBCC chief said 1.5 lakh trees will be planted as per the government rule and another 50,000 trees voluntarily by NBCC and CPWD.

Under the proposed redevelopment project in seven colonies, NBCC and CPWD will develop 25,667 government flats which will have 70,000 underground car parking.

Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary D S Mishra said all these seven old colonies need redevelopment.

"Redevelopment is very necessary. Buildings have a life and in all these seven old colonies need redevelopment whose maintenance cost is very high and they are providing accommodation to fewer people that is why the government decided that they will redevelop these seven colonies. We are breaking 12,000 houses and making 25500 houses," Mishra said.

NBCC said that it would take utmost care to protect natural environment and all measures are being taken in the planning and designing of these colonies to construct with Green certification GRIHA.