The Environment Ministry’s Regional Empowered Committee (REC) has “in-principle” approved a proposal for diversion of 8.11 hectares of “deemed forest” land, where the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) stood, for the construction of three office buildings under the Central Vista redevelopment project.
The final approval for diversion of forest land is to be granted by the central government.
In August, the Delhi government had recommended the proposal for approval of the REC “in larger public interest subject to the conditions laid by the forest department”.
There are more than 250 trees per hectare at the site. Therefore, it was treated as “deemed forest” and required approval for diversion for non-forest activity under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, a Delhi forest department official said.
Of the existing 2,219 trees at the site, the Central Public Works Department seeks to transplant 1,734 and retain 485 trees.
The three office buildings, which will be part of the Common Central Secretariat, are to be built at a cost of Rs 3,269 crore, with Rs 139 crore set aside for five years’ maintenance.
The REC approved the CPWD’s proposal in a meeting held on August 24 subject to certain conditions.
It said the land for compensatory afforestation should be made available to the Delhi Forest Department, free of all encroachment and encumbrances, within 15 days of the approval and compliance submitted to the Integrated Region Office, Jaipur.
“Translocation scheme needs to be submitted before IRO, Jaipur as per species and age classes suitable for translocation. Forest land will be handed over only after required non-forest land for the project is handed over by the user agency,” the minutes of the meeting read.
The CPWD has informed the Delhi Forest department that it will transplant 1,500 trees at NTPC Eco Park, Badarpur. The location for the remaining trees is being finalised.
According to the agency, there are 1,179 trees, including the 485 retained ones, in the proposed “landscape plan” of the project. The CPWD has proposed 8.11 hectares of land near Dhulsiras village in Sector 29, Dwarka for compensatory afforestation.
During an inspection conducted in July, the forest department found the land suitable for CA, according to documents seen by PTI.
However, compensatory afforestation can only be done after pruning of “invasive species of trees on 20 percent of the proposed land”, the forest department has told the CPWD.
The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 requires that afforestation is carried out in compensation for forest land diverted for non-forestry uses.
Compensatory afforestation can be done over an equivalent area of non-forest land or over degraded forest twice in extent of the area being diverted, if non-forest land is not available. According to the ministry’s guidelines, at least 1,000 saplings per hectare have to be planted on the identified non-forest land.
“Therefore, 8,110 saplings will be planted at the site in Dwarka,” a forest department official said.
The CPWD will be allowed to start work at the IGNCA site only after it deposits Rs 7.07 crore and hand over the required non-forest land to the forest department for plantation work, he said.
According to the CPWD, Central Vista houses only 22 of the 51 ministries of the central government. In some cases, a ministry has offices split between different buildings. This scattering of ministry offices across Delhi hampers the efficiency of administration and increases operation costs and energy usage.
The consolidated Common Central Secretariat will have modern offices and facilities for all 51 ministries, it said.