Amid a major hue and cry over the felling of around 14,000 trees, for the redevelopment of residential colonies in Delhi, the state-owned NBCC, on June 25, 2018, defended its decision, saying it would compensate the move by increasing the green cover 15 times. Underscoring the need for redevelopment, NBCC CMD Anoop Kumar Mittal said that several decades old colonies had hundreds of ‘unserviceable and unlivable units’ out of a total of 12,970 flats as of now and the same would be transformed into the most modern colonies, with 25,667 units, having an extensive green cover, sewage treatment plants, organised parking and other amenities.
He said, in a bid to protect the environment, NBCC would be planting not only saplings but also 10-ft-long trees, whose care would be properly taken as long as required. The government has announced that it would be cutting over 14,000 trees, for building over 25,000 flats for government employees in seven colonies of south Delhi. The government-owned real estate development body, is redeveloping Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Nauroji Nagar, while the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is managing the remaining four colonies in Kasturba Nagar, Thyagraj Nagar, Srinivaspuri and Mohammadpur.
A major protest broke out against the decision, with locals and activists launching their own ‘Chipko Movement’, a forest conservation movement, where people embrace trees to prevent them from being cut. The NBCC, on June 25, 2018, agreed in the Delhi High Court, not to cut the trees till July 4. It made the statement after a vacation bench of the high court, comprising justices Vinod Goel and Rekha Palli, said that it would impose an interim stay on tree felling.
At a press conference, the NBCC CMD defended the move, saying it is a sacrifice that one has to make for development and they would be compensating, by increasing the green cover 15 times. NBCC, which is developing three of the seven colonies, sought to assuage concerns, saying green cover in these residential localities will go up to 50-55 per cent, from the average of 14 per cent at present.
The colonies, Mittal said, had become unlivable and so, need to be redeveloped at a cost of around Rs 30,000 crores. The projects are self-funded.
Around 13,000 trees were remaining to be cut in seven redevelopment projects in the national capital and two lakh trees will be planted, Mittal said, when asked about reports of 16,000-17,000 trees to be felled for these projects. NBCC has already received permission from the Delhi government and other authorities, to fell 3,748 trees in Nauroji Nagar and Netaji Nagar, where 10,000 trees will be planted, apart from paying for green coverage, he said.
Asked if the matter has been politicised, he said, “It has not been politicised. People are now environment sensitive. We have to develop Delhi, not for 1-2 years but for 100-200 years. We have taken permission from the state government to cut trees and not from the union environment ministry.”
While redeveloping the colonies, Mittal said special care and attention is being given towards retaining maximum number of existing trees and incorporating them in a large cluster, as an integral part of the landscaping design scheme. Stating that the locations for planting of two lakh trees is being identified, the NBCC chief said 1.5 lakh trees will be planted as per the government rule and another 50,000 trees voluntarily, by the NBCC and CPWD. Under the proposed redevelopment project in seven colonies, NBCC and CPWD will develop 25,667 government flats, which will have underground car parking for 70,000 cars.
Housing and Urban Affairs secretary DS Mishra, said all these seven old colonies need redevelopment. “Buildings have a life. All these seven old colonies need redevelopment. Their maintenance cost is very high and they are providing accommodation to less people. That is why the government decided that they will redevelop these seven colonies. We are breaking 12,000 houses and making 25,500 houses,” Mishra said. NBCC said that it would take utmost care, to project natural environment and all measures are being taken, in the planning and designing of these colonies, to construct with Green certification GRIHA.