NEW DELHI: Hitting-out at the AAP for accusing him of "misguiding" people over the plan to cut down over 16,500 trees here, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan today said the permission to fell trees was not given by his ministry, but through approvals by Delhi government authorities.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had today accused Vardhan of "misguiding" people over the plan to cut down the trees in Delhi for redevelopment of seven colonies, claiming that his ministry had given environment clearance to the project.
In a statement issued tonight, the Union minister said the Delhi government has neither taken any permission nor does it need to take any such permission from the Environment Ministry.
"Harsh Vardhan has said that the permission to fell trees is not granted by the Union Ministry.
The Government of NCT of Delhi has neither taken any permission nor does it need to take any such permission from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
"Harsh Vardhan emphasised that all such tree felling is carried out with the approval of authorities concerned of the Delhi government, and permissions have been given as per the Delhi Preservation of Tree Act, 1994, which is a State Act," the official statement quoting Vardhan said.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj claimed that the environmental impact assessment report for the project was approved by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change and no public hearing was held on it.
The redevelopment project, involving seven colonies in south Delhi, is embroiled in blame game involving the AAP and the BJP, while locals, activists and environmentalists hugging trees, launched their own "Chipko Movement".
The Delhi High Court on June 25 questioned the move of felling over 16,500 trees for the project.
Taking note of the views expressed by the court which appeared inclined to order an interim stay of the tree chopping process, the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), tasked with redeveloping half a dozen south Delhi colonies, agreed not to cut any tree till July 4 when the case will come up again for hearing by the court.
Vardhan said the Environmental Clearance (EC) conveyed to the NCT of Delhi categorically states that if any tree needs to be cut, 10 trees must be planted against this felling.
Normally, the requirement is that against every one tree felled, 3 trees need to be planted, he said.
The Union minister also said the campus in question is perhaps one of the greenest campuses among all such colonies.
He emphasised that the said environmental clearance is also subject to various statutory approvals of the state government, including the permission under the Delhi Preservation of Tree Act, 1994.
Vardhan said it has been stressed in the environmental clearance process that more than 40 per cent of the total area of the project site is to be developed as a green belt.
He said the New Moti Bagh colony in South Delhi is a good example where ample plantations have been made after completion of construction activities.
He asserted that his ministry has been taking all mitigative measures to minimise any negative impact on environment and forests.
"We are committed to increasing the green cover.
Despite huge developmental work taking place, the green cover has been steadily increasing in Delhi and also in the whole of India.
"This is evident from the fact that there has been an increase of 7,84,300 ha of green cover in the country in the last two years as per the India State of Forest Report, 2017.
During the same period, the green cover of NCT of Delhi has also increased by 563 ha.
Now the green cover of Delhi is 20.59 per cent of its total geographical area," the minister said.