The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe to ascertain the number and kinds of tree saplings planted in Delhi in the last five years [Diwan Singh v. Govt of NCT of Delhi and Ors.]..The plea also sought information on the cost of planting such saplings, constitution of an independent expert committee to assess and verify the mortality and survival of saplings in all future plantations, as well as directions to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) for the maintenance of all plantations for a minimum of 10 years..A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice to the Delhi government, MOEFCC, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), among others.The matter will be heard next on February 12, 2023..Counsel for environmentalist and petitioner Diwan Singh placed reliance on a 2017 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which highlighted blatant irregularities in a virtually defunct Delhi Tree Authority. He also submitted that no agency conducting the plantation of trees in teh capital was maintaining proper records regarding the species, numbers, exact areas, geotagged locations, costs involved and survival etc."The grim survival rate is primarily because of the wrong method, single-day bulk plantations. Invasive species are planted instead of native ones which is destroying the city's biodiversity."On the other hand, counsel for the Delhi and Central governments collectively urged the Court to place this matter before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for appropriate consideration..Another issue raised by the petitioner was that of bulk or single-day plantations conducted by government agencies, which are ecologically inconsequential and discourage biodiversity in the capital.It was submitted that such plantations are being done to merely achieve numerical targets and publicize these achievements, politically or otherwise. In this regard, it is claimed,"Over the last several years, the Government of NCT of Delhi has been advertising and claiming to plant record number of saplings running into several lakhs, each year. As against the targets assigned for plantations, the land available for plantations, including fresh as well as compensatory plantations, at present, is proportionately, far too less in size and too inadequate."The petition goes on to highlight the scarcity of land available for plantations in Delhi, and the consequences of improper planting of trees."Since the land available for plantations in Delhi is very scarce, the number of saplings planted on a given piece of land is disproportionately excessive and thus unnaturally cluttered/crowded leading to unhealthy growth thereof. Because of the unscientific and haphazard plantations, the planted saplings are unable to form a canopy (foliage umbrella at the apex of a tree), which part alone sequesters atmospheric Carbon and performs photosynthesis for the rest of the tree," the plea reads..Advocate Akash Vashishtha appeared for the petitioner.Advocates Sameer Vashisht and Anurag Ahluwalia appeared for the Delhi and Central governments respectively.