Illegal tree felling in Gandhi memorial, police register FIR

Several trees were cut illegally at the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi compound near the National Gandhi Museum at Rajghat, prompting the police to register a first information report.

The Delhi police have also sent a report to the Public Works Department (PWD) since it is responsible for the maintenance of the road, along which the trees have been felled.

According to the report, seen by HT, the police had received information from an informer about tree felling at the memorial. A police visited the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi compound on December 27, and found at least 5-6 recently chopped trees. Roots of some of the trees were burnt and cleared with a plough.

The police collected evidence, took photographs and submitted a report to the Public Works Department. Police have also registered a first information report (FIR) under sections of Delhi Tree Conservation Act against unknown persons at the IP Estate police station.

A senior PWD official said that it was protocol to inform the land owning agency, if action was being taken on an offence relating to their jurisdiction. He said the proceedings in the case will “completely depend on the police”. “Since the trees were on the side of PWD road, we were informed of the legal action that the police initiated. It is protocol,” the official said.

The memorial building is situated along the Ring Road. According to police’s report, the police team found a man using tree cutting machine to chop the trees. Police said the gates were locked from inside when they reached the spot.

“There were chopped tree logs in the compound. On inquiry, the man cutting the tree said that he was instructed to cut the trees by a senior member of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi trust. Our team inspected the spot and found that many trees had already been cut. The roots were also burnt and covered using sand. We asked the people at the spot if they had permission but they were unable to produce it so we registered an FIR,” said a police officer privy to the case details, who did not wish to be named.

The Gandhi Smarak Nidhi trust said there was a miscommunication because of which the trees were chopped. Sanjay Singh, the chairperson and secretary of the trust, said, “There are electrical lines on the top of it (trees).Therefore, I asked the gardener to trim the branches. Because of that the tree has fallen. The gardener misunderstood and he cuts some other tree. There was some miscommunication. Our principle is growing more trees. In a month or two, we will plant more trees in that space. But immediately we have taken action and now we are planting more trees in the area.”

For cutting a tree in Delhi, it is mandatory to submit an application to the government’s Tree Officer about the number of trees to be cut and the reasons. The officer then visits the site before granting permission.

On October 9, the Delhi cabinet had approved the transplantation policy for the preservation of trees in the Capital. Under the new policy, 80% of trees affected by a construction project will have to be transplanted. Construction agencies will also have to ensure that 80% of transplanted trees survive after being relocated. The policy also mandates that for every tree cut, 10 saplings must be planted.

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