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While dealing with its 2015 suo motu petition on air pollution in the National Capital, the Delhi High Court today stated that it would now fix “targets” for the concerned authorities to mitigate the problem and then supervise compliance of the same.
“Purpose is to fix the targets.. this will go on every month..“, the Court said.
Clarifying its approach, a Division Bench of Justices GS Sistani and Anup J Bhambhami remarked that it was time to consider what can be done to curb the problem, instead of discussing what should have been done.
Accordingly, pursuant to a statement made by Delhi’s Chief Conservator of Forests, the Court today directed the Delhi Government to remove the illegal encroachment at the city’s Southern Ridge forest area and then restore it, as one of the targets for the next four weeks.
As per the Chief Conservator of Forests, this area comprises 370 hectares of land and includes pucca houses and multi-story buildings.
The order to remove the illegal encroachment, as well as to restore forest area in its place, was passed in view of the fact that no plantation could be carried out till February 15 due to the weather conditions and the existing forest area had already reached saturation.
The Chief Conservator of Forests was present in Court pursuant to the order passed by the Court on the last date of hearing.
The Court today also directed the Delhi Government to come up with an “Action Plan” and place it before the Task Force which is working under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
Thirdly, after observing that there was no plan in place to deal with the problem of dust in the city, the Court directed the concerned local bodies to assess if shrubs and creepers could be planted to minimize the level of dust on the roads and side-walks.
Several ideas were discussed by the Court with the Chief Conservator of Forests to deal with the menace of air pollution. One of the queries included using a helicopter to throw seed darts over areas that were otherwise inaccessible, such as gaps in the middle of dense forests.
In response to another query by the Court, the Chief Conservator of Forests also stated that at present, the green cover in Delhi stood at 21 %, which made Delhi the greenest city in Asia, and the Government’s aim was to increase it up to 25%.
During the course of the discussion on the extent of aforestation carried out by the Forest Department last year, the Court clarified that the distribution of saplings and plants to citizens would not qualify as increasing Delhi’s forest cover.
Stressing on the need to increase the forest cover in the area in order to achieve a long term solution, the Court remarked,
“We are concerned with what are you contributing (towards increasing the forest cover)..You may distribute pleasantries…..Planting saplings is not increasing forest cover..”
The matter would be heard next on December 5.
Senior Advocate Kailash Vasudev is the Amicus Curiae in the case. Delhi Government was represented by Standing Counsel Sanjoy Ghose.