Many principles of good governance, if compulsory legal procedures are not compromised
After the steps of the Delhi High Court, which prevented the tree from falling to large scale for the “redevelopment project” in the city, on July 2, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) also stepped in to the activity till its next hearing. Due to continuous tree protection campaign by the citizens, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has assured to review and redesign the project, in which the redevelopment of seven government housing colonies involves a large scale construction of commercial and residential infrastructure. Upon completion, the Nauroji Nagar will be used by Delhi’s first World Trade Center.
This is not the first time that the issue of falling trees for these projects is being discussed in the Green Tribunal. In September 2017, the NGT rejected the challenge to this project that it could precede with mandatory permissions and mandatory protection measures of compensatory gardens in the ratio 1:10. Now, to complete the circle, the matter has returned to the NGT and this time many agencies and governments have approved the project.
National Green Tribunal pushes?
On September 12, 2016, former Union Minister Raghunath Jha, wrote a letter to NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar. The Union Cabinet did this immediately after approving the project. His letter expressed the following concerns:
“These seven colonies are filled with green, old trees, which include Ayurvedic flora and other rare plants which are not in the fate of human life and will be the main reason for global warming in India.”
He also said:
“NBCC’s logic of double farming of destructive trees is false and trees will take 40-50 years to grow, and if the NGT agrees with their answer and will be the foolish act of understanding.”
In less than a month, the NGTT will issue this problem on October 10, 2016, in the United States. 5353 and the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and NBCC. Tribunal appointed lawyer Sumeer Sodhi was appointed to act as Amicus Curie (friend of the court). A month later, notices were issued to the government of NCT-Delhi and Central Public Works Department. Until February 2017, only NBCC (Representative by lawyer Pinaki Mishra and Manoj Kumar Das) filed their reply. None of the other institutions took place, and Judgment Day set another date for the three central government agencies.
Untimely Process of the Ministry of Environment
From March-July 2017, the case was adjourned or was stopped eight times. None of the orders of that period indicates that pending answers were filed or strong instructions were issued for it.
Meanwhile, the action on the project was transferred to the Ministry of Environment. In April 2017, a letter was sent to NBRO regarding the mention of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in April and applied for compulsory environmental clearance in 2006 under the EIA. It was for two of the seven redevelopment projects – for Netaji Nagar and Nauroji Nagar. A Special Discussion Committee (EAC) on this project postponed this discussion. The project will not be able to deal with this problem without resolving this issue under the “UDA trial” and “this issue.”
On June 12, 2017, NBCC again requested the MOEFCC for a TOR, which stated that no interim order has been passed by the Tribunal. A detailed note on the NGT case was presented to him by allegations that the letter of Raghunath Jha to the NGT, the matter on which the matter was being heard was vague and premature. The next day, the NGT heard the case and adjourned it till July 18, 2017.
But EAC was convinced with the arguments of NBCC and he gave them in their request. On June 29, 2017, EAC had recommended a standard tour for EIA for Netaji Nagar and Nauroji Nagar projects. He also accepted another special request from NBCC and allowed them to finalize the EIA report based on the aggregated data collected between April-June 2017. Basic information has been collected by NBC advisers for Netaji Nagar ABC Technologies for NBC.
In August, official letters issuing TORs were issued, even if the hearing continued in the NGT. In fact, the Urban Development Authority (UDA) can deny this project due to the arrest of the trees, said the Ministry of Environment.
Permissions in roll
After months of slow running, NGT gave a direction on July 31, 2017. The Bench of the President directed the Delhi Forest Department (FD) to submit a report and take action as per “law”. The FD made a comeback in a month, under the final decision in the Raghunath Jha case, on August 17 and 21, Netaji Nagar and Nauroji Nagar received their TOR for their assessment.
Come September, NGT settled Jha’s case with planting conditions for trees falling in the ratio 1:10. On September 22, the tribunal said that long trees should be planted on the site or at any other available place, and instead of cutting trees, an implant should be ordered. He also said that:
“Plants will be planted as a condition for cutting trees.”
The guidelines further emphasized:
“In the event, the order is not followed, the project pro will be responsible for paying the environmental compensation and we will also direct the prevention of this project.”
The firm’s conviction that trees can be arrested and the compensation for other places depends on the report of FD, which was filed on the request of the court. This report is not publicly available yet.
September is also the month when NBCC finalized its EIA report on the basis of three month baseline data and handed it over to the Ministry of Environment. On October 13, 2017, the Ministry’s EAC (Infrastructure and CRZ) recommended environmental clearance for projects in a meeting. For both Netaji and Nauroji, the EC was released on 27 November, 2017 on the same day.
Strange long wait for permission to fall trees
The citizens’ right to vote for the fall of the trees was published in the Social Democrats, in response to the skillful Pant Mishra filed by PIL in the High Court of Colombo. On November 15, 2017, the secretary for the Naurogii Nagar project (Environment and Forestry) showed the profitability under the New Delhi Protection Act (DPTA).
However, documents of permission to fall in Netaji town indicate that on 17th February, 2017, NBCC had applied for permission to fall trees so that it can be ascertained that the matter is pending before the NGT, where he also filed a reaction is. It has been released using Section 29 of DPTA, 1994, which fails to terminate the requirement to communicate its decision on the application of NBCC within 60 days for the designated tree officer, in which the application is approved Approved for acceptance. Within a week, the tree officer transmits the permission of NBCC on May 1, does not specify when and how to make mandatory inquiries as a designated tree officer. Only after this inquiry could the permission is granted.
Loss of trust
This circular and overlapping timeline is still full of holes about how to get the project approval. But the information available so far is enough to show that many of the principles of good governance, if compulsory legal procedures were compromised. Full truth can come through ongoing matters. Meanwhile, trees visiting the proposed construction sites by many civil parties do not fall and the assurance of total confidence in governments involved in this case.