New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday directed the city government and its authorities to ensure there was no further encroachment in forests in the National Capital Territory, after it was told that the green cover here was shrinking due to rampant construction.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva issued the direction after noting that as per an aerial photograph of Delhi, there was "rapid deforestation" and "decline in tree cover" which has contributed to air pollution in the city.
In order to ensure there was no further encroachment into forest areas and to remove unauthorized occupants from there, the bench appointed Chetan Sangi, Secretary of Public Works Department (PWD), to supervise and report to the court about the action taken.
It asked the PWD Secretary to file a status report within four weeks and the Commissioner of Police to depute an officer within one week to assist Sangi in carrying out his work.
With regard to the protection of central ridge forest, which was the responsibility of multiple agencies, the bench thought it fit to nominate Joint Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to coordinate with the PWD Secretary and give a status report indicating action taken to achieve the objective of protecting forests.
"We are making it clear, that from today onwards all concerned authorities shall ensure that no further encroachment of forest areas takes place in National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.
"We are also making it clear that all officers and authorities under the various statutes are bound to ensure that forest areas are not encroached upon and no unauthorized construction takes place," the bench said.
It also said that if it finds out that forest areas have been encroached upon despite its orders, then official or authority concerned shall be held responsible for the same.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it on its own on the issue of increasing air pollution in Delhi.
The high court observed that 'malba' (rubble) around dug-up roads contribute significantly to particulate matter, a major air pollutant, in the environment and directed that it was necessary that whenever a road was cut up for any work it be filled up as soon as the work was completed.
It said all municipal bodies should ensure that the rules for filling dug-up roads are followed in letter and spirit and to file status reports with photos to show they have complied with its directions.
The HC also asked all agencies to indicate in their report whether cleaning of roads was being undertaken and was it possible to have a system of mechanised cleaning.
On the aspect of ensuring a smooth flow of vehicles in the city without any jams, which also contribute to air pollution, the court sought from the traffic police an action plan, within four weeks, on "setting up/enforcing" an intelligent traffic management system in the national capital.
"This is so because a major source of air pollution is traffic jams and vehicles idling at red lights as well as slow movement of vehicles, leads to air pollution and wastage of fossil fuels," it said and listed the matter for further hearing on November 27.