If trees were voters, they would not be hacked. This was the reaction of the Delhi High Court on Monday which suggested a CAG audit of timber generated by either encroachers or the authorities for various projects in the national capital.
“If trees were included in electoral roll as voters, then they would remain,” a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar said after being told that a huge number of trees have been felled by local authorities, like Delhi Metro, for projects and by encroachers, like in the Asola sanctuary.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it on the issue of air pollution and its causes, one of which was the decline in forest and green cover in Delhi and its surrounding areas.
The bench was also of the view that there should be an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into the number of trees felled in Delhi and what was done with the timber generated.
“That is an income that has to be accounted for, hence the need for CAG audit,” the bench said.
The court also noted that the Delhi government has not adhered to its timelines fixed early last year for identifying encroachments in the Asola-Bhati sanctuary and removing them.
“None of the timelines have been met,” it said and told the government that wherever it has identified encroachments, the people have to be removed from there and relocated.
Amicus Curiae Kailash Vasdev said that in view of the government’s inaction, forest cover has gone down.
This contention was opposed by Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra who said that forest cover in the national capital has not gone down and even claimed that green cover has increased in the city.
After brief arguments, the bench listed the matter for further hearing on March 9.