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HC raps AAP govt for recalcitrance in ensuring plantation of 1.4 L saplings in central ridge

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: June 17, 2019  | 18:42 IST

New Delhi, Jun 17 (PTI) The Delhi High Court pulled up the AAP government's forest department Monday for its "recalcitrance" in complying with directions to ensure 1.4 lakh saplings are planted in the central ridge area here. After the government informed the court till date only 3,500 saplings have been planted and another 2,500 would be planted by the end of this week, Justice Najmi Waziri said, "I see a lot of recalcitrance at your (forest department) end." This would bring the total to 6,000 as against the 30,000 saplings which were to be planted in the first phase by June 15 according to the court's May 30 order. "You (forest department) are sitting pretty on it (the direction) as if lives of Delhi's citizens do not matter. Look how hot it is in the city. Quit stalling and do it," the court said after noting the government's stand. The forest department, in its defense, told the court that after the May 30 order it had surveyed the central ridge area for additional sites to plant the saplings and could identify only 2,500 more pockets. However, watering the saplings in these pockets would have to be done manually, it added and sought permission to plant the remaining saplings in the southern ridge area. Dissatisfied with the department's stand, the court said saplings can also be planted near the existing trees where the top soil would be thicker or deeper. It is the department's stand that the rocky terrain of the central ridge has loose and thin layer of top soil where it would be difficult to plant three-year-old saplings in such large numbers as ordered by the court on March 11. It has sought modification of both the March 11 and May 30 orders to the extent that it be allowed to plant the saplings in other areas, like the southern ridge. Even the Ridge Management Board, represented by senior advocate Rajiv Dutta, suggested that some of the plantation be moved to another area. Subsequently, after hearing all sides, the court directed the forest department to plant 5,000 more saplings in the central ridge area and around 50,000 in the southern ridge area. This would bring the total to 61,000 out of the 1.4 lakh saplings. The forest department also faced heat for not getting aerial photographs using drones of the sites where the saplings have been planted. The department said it has sent a request to Geo Spatial Delhi Ltd (GSDL) for assistance. To this the court replied, "There would be 10 people ready to carry out drone photography, but you cannot do it? For a marriage ceremony you will get so many people with drones to take photos from every angle. Pay some of them Rs 10,000 and they will cover the entire ridge for you." The private company -- Venkatanarayana Active Ingredients Pvt Ltd, formerly Nutra Specialities Pvt Ltd -- which has been directed to procure the saplings was also chided by the court when it said buying 1,000 saplings cost it Rs 17.5 lakh. "What a shame. That is a scam. Each tree would cost you around Rs 300-Rs 400 if you buy it in bulk," the court said. The high court in its March 11 order had imposed a cost of Rs 80 lakh on Indian drug firm Venkatanarayana Active Ingredients for breach of judicial directions not to manufacture and sell diabetes medication under the brand names used by pharma major Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD). The order had come on MSD's plea seeking contempt action against the Indian company. The court had directed the Indian company to spend the amount on creating a larger green area in and around the city by planting 1.4 lakh trees in the central ridge and the forest department was directed to ensure implementation of the direction. PTI HMP KJ

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