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Saplings being planted in bulk to achieve targets, no record of survival: Plea in Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court Tuesday issued notices to the Delhi government, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in a public interest litigation (PIL), which states that bulk/single-day plantations are done by public authorities in the national capital to “achieve numerical targets”. The plea seeks an SIT probe to ascertain the number and kind of saplings planted in Delhi in the last five years, the costs incurred, and the survival.

The counsel for the petitioner, Akash Vashishtha, argued that none of the agencies that conducted plantations were maintaining proper records regarding the species, numbers, exact areas, geotagged locations, costs involved and survival.

“No information pertaining to the plantations are made publically available on their websites, not allowing a common citizen to view such important information and participate or to provide feedback. 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,” Vashishtha submitted.

The plea has been preferred by environmentalist Diwan Singh, to apprise the court of “the improper, haphazard, mindless, unscientific, non-native, biodiversity-discouraging, invasive, ecologically-disastrous and inconsequential plantations being carried out, inter alia, by the Department of Environment and Forests, Government of National Capital Territory; Delhi Development Authority (DDA); Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD); New Delhi Municipal Council; PWD; CPWD; Airports Authority of India; and the Archaeological Survey of India”.

The plea states that the land available for plantations in Delhi is scarce and the number of saplings planted on a given piece of land is disproportionately excessive, which leads to unnaturally cluttered/crowded and unhealthy growth. The petition also raises the issue of high mortality of saplings, grim survival rate, and the lack of adequate maintenance/care needed for fresh, tender saplings.

The petitioner has prayed for the constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) or any other appropriate independent inquiry committee comprising expert agencies to look into the issue. The petition further prays for the constitution of an independent expert committee to assess and verify the mortality and survival of saplings in all future plantations of all departments. The plea further seeks that Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change be directed

to issue directions under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to all departments conducting plantations, to necessarily maintain all fresh or compensatory plantations for a minimum period of 8-10 years, either departmentally or through contractors.

The matter is next listed on February 7, 2023.

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