An environmental activist told the Delhi High Court Tuesday that the redevelopment of seven south Delhi colonies, including Sarojini Nagar, was put to motion without making a traffic management plan which was a pre-requisite for getting an environment clearance (EC).
The submission was made before a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and A J Bhambani, which was also told that planting of saplings in lieu of felling fully-grown trees was not a compensation for the damage caused to the environment.
The court, thereafter, asked the Centre to address the issues raised by the environmental activist, Vimlendu Jha, on the next date of hearing on January 23, 2019.
The bench said it wanted to know whether there were any errors in decision making and violation of procedure as laid down in the master plan for Delhi.
The court said the government would also have to address arguments on whether a traffic plan was a pre-requisite for seeking an EC and if such an exercise was carried out before sanctioning the redevelopment of Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Thyagaraja Nagar, Kasturba Nagar, Mohammadpur, Srinivaspuri and Nauroji Nagar.
The National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), which would carry out a part of the work, said the entire work would cost around Rs 32,000 crore and would be funded by the commercial hub, including a World Trade Centre, that was planned at Nauroji Nagar.
Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for Jha, told the court that trees were felled in the area in violation of National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders and that the project was sanctioned without following the procedure laid down in the master plan for Delhi.
He also said compensatory afforestation by planting saplings in lieu of full-grown trees would not help the environment.
The high court had, on October 3, allowed the Centre to approach the appropriate authorities to seek the necessary approvals for the revised proposals regarding the re-development of six south Delhi colonies, excluding Nauroji Nagar, where construction was prohibited by an interim order.
The order came after the Centre and the NBCC had told the bench that they had made several changes to the project to ensure that the number of trees to be felled and water consumption in the area were reduced.
Apart from that, the road infrastructure would be "augmented" to accommodate the increased vehicular traffic, they had said.
The court was hearing PILs challenging the terms of reference (ToR) and the ECs granted to the housing projects in the seven colonies, claiming that these would result in the felling of around 16,500 trees.
The bench had, on August 30, directed that status quo be maintained regarding the project till the Centre reconsidered the ECs given to the work in the six colonies, after the court was told that the clearances were granted on the basis of an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report that had "copy-pasted" its contents from another project report in Tamil Nadu.
(With inputs from agencies.)