Delhi

Can a tree be considered encroachment? SDMC first says yes, then no  

The tree that was uprooted during the anti-encroachment drive undertaken by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation at New Friends Colony on Tuesday.

The tree that was uprooted during the anti-encroachment drive undertaken by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation at New Friends Colony on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

The uproar over the uprooting of a tree from a footpath adjacent to the boundary wall of a house in New Friends Colony during the South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s anti-encroachment drive on Tuesday has raised a pertinent question — can a tree be considered an encroachment?

The civic body, which had dismissed the tree as an “encroachment” on the day of the drive, issued a statement on Wednesday terming its action “unintentional”, while assuring the Forest Department that it will undertake compensatory afforestation as per the guidelines. 

The statement comes a day after local residents raised concerns stating that the civic body was “targeting plants and trees” instead of addressing “actual issues”.

Civic officials present during the drive had underplayed the uprooting, saying the tree was obstructing the “right of way on a footpath”. They had dismissed questions on whether they had prior permission to uproot the tree.

A senior SDMC official – who was not present at the spot – had also given a similar view on the incident on Tuesday. However, when contacted on Wednesday, he asserted that trees were, in fact, not considered “encroachments”. 

‘Permission needed’

“We cannot remove a tree without the permission of the Forest Department since they are to be preserved. Encroachments are things that are manmade; even if the tree is causing obstructions or hindering development work, we are still required to take permission from the Forest Department,” said the senior SDMC official. 

He added that the South civic body took cognisance of the incident and reported it to the Forest Department. It also assured “compensatory afforestation of 10 trees”, said the official.

 AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan in a letter to the SHO, New Friends Colony, had sought a complaint to be registered against the officials of SDMC for “illegally uprooting a tree’‘, while adding that it was a violation of the “Forest Act and Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (1994)”. 

The senior SDMC official, however, said the civic body was unaware of Mr. Khan’s letter and it had acted on its own to rectify its “unintentional” action. 

“The tree was completely inclined towards the boundary wall that was encroaching upon the footpath. While demolishing the encroachment, the tree was also unintentionally uprooted. It was not right, and we are compensating,” said the official.

When contacted, Mr. Khan said, “They [SDMC] have accepted it because of my complaint only as its news was published by almost all media houses. An FIR should be registered against them because the same action would have been taken against a common man for such an offence.”


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Printable version | Jun 9, 2022 2:45:36 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/can-a-tree-be-considered-encroachment-sdmc-first-says-yes-then-no/article65404827.ece