New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today rapped the city government for the failure of its forest department to give details of the amount of wood consumed in crematoriums in the national capital and the number of trees that have been cut which were then supplied to them.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said it was convenient to say all the trees that were cut have been sent to crematoriums, since they would have been burnt to ashes and therefore, there would be no need for accounting.
"Many of those trees must have ended up as doors or furniture somewhere," the court said and added there was no affidavit of the department on record.
The bench, thereafter, directed that the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests shall be present before it on the next date of hearing.
It also directed Delhi government to make available on the next date of hearing the latest maps of all forest areas in the national capital territory.
The court made the observations and issued the directions after Delhi government said that according to its policy, all trees that are cut with permission of forest department and taken away by it are given free of cost to the crematoriums.
The court, meanwhile, directed all the authorities to file their affidavits and listed the matter for hearing on August 12.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it on its own on the issue of increasing air pollution in Delhi.
It had earlier sought from the forest department "the extent of wood consumed in crematoriums in Delhi and the extent of trees that have been cut down resulting in the quantity of timber which they (forest department) say they supplied to the crematoriums".
The court had also sought details of the revenue collected by the Forest Department for granting permission for cutting trees in Delhi in the last ten years. PTI HMP PPS ZMN
The court had earlier directed the municipal corporations of Delhi (MCDs) to give "a precise figure as to the extent of roads which are dug up for repairs etc., and which have not been filled up" as well as the "amount of revenue collected for road cutting and expended in the last five years".
The MCDs today sought more time to file an affidavit of the details the court had asked for.
The court on July 29 had expressed serious concern over high levels of particulate matters in the air affecting the health of the people in the national capital and had directed the city government to take steps to check unregulated building activities and plant trees.
The court had also expressed concern over the fact that while Delhi was supposed to have 33 per cent forest cover as per the master plan, it only has 20 per cent.
Amicus curiae Kailash Vasdev told the court today that most of the forest areas in the national capital have been reduced to small sizes due to rampant construction as well as encroachment which is allegedly "encouraged" by the government.
He said at the rate the forest cover was being reduced, "forget pollution, the entire city would be gone" and said somebody from the government has to be hauled up.
He said the government was saying lakhs of trees were being planted by it as compensatory afforestation for the trees that were cut and asked "where are the trees?"
"They are taking the whole system for a ride," he added.