Delhi Pollution: High Court recently admonished the forest department for granting permissions for tree felling without providing adequate reasons, holding them responsible for the current pollution crisis in the capital.
Justice Jasmeet Singh expressed concern over the deteriorating air quality, which had reached the severe category for the first time in the season, with an average Air Quality Index of 475 at 11 am, surpassing last year’s peak levels.
Climate activist Bhavreen Kandhari filed a contempt plea, alleging a violation of the court’s April 2022 directions regarding the necessity of specifying reasons for tree felling. On September 14, the court had instructed officials not to grant permission for tree felling for construction purposes.
Justice Singh criticized officers for neglecting their duty:
Justice Singh criticized the officers for neglecting their duty and blatantly disregarding court orders, emphasizing the need for a more responsible approach to tree preservation. He called for a balance between development and nature and urged authorities to explore alternatives for development projects while safeguarding trees.
“Development must coexist with nature and heritage. We are not coming in your way of development. If there is a traffic jam, you will have to widen the roads. It cannot be that you will cut 50 trees around it. If there is no other way, then you should not go ahead no. Trees cannot be removed. You have to find a way. How can colonies be treeless? None is coming in your way of development. Development is a part of moving society. You cannot be reckless.”
Anupam Srivastava, an advocate, proposed that the court rule on the contempt plea and establish guidelines for how the officers should approve tree cutting.
“They only write the final line that the permission is granted. Suo moto action may be taken wherein we get a chance to express our difficulties. We have difficulties in implementing the [Delhi Preservation Of] Trees Act. In contempt, there is always a hanging sword,” Srivastava said.