Judgment of the National Green Tribunal regarding concretization of open spaces and green belts in Punjab, 30/01/2024

  • 30/01/2024

Judgment of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Sahil Garg Vs State of Punjab & Others dated 30/01/2024.

The matter related to concretization of open spaces, on the pretext of parking area requirements, and road-sides, in the name of pedestrian path, right upto the neck of the existing trees and non-implementation of any plantation program for developing green belts in open spaces and along the road-sides in SAS Nagar.

The court opined that the case involved substantial environmental questions of deconcretization of trees and protection of parks, open spaces, green belts in cities which are being over-concretized without providing adequate green cover or destroying the existing green cover.

The court said that concretization upto the roots and trunks of the trees is not permissible. "Concretization around trees not only hampers root aeration but also the percolation of water which could ultimately lead to death of the tree", said the court.

The NGT directed the Chief Secretary, Punjab to issue appropriate instructions within one month to all the municipal bodies/civic agencies/government departments/gram panchayats to ensure that:

1. That all the sign boards, names, advertisements, any kind of boards or signages, electric wires and high tension insulated cables etc. placed on trees are removed within one month from the date of issuance of the instructions;

ii) That the trees which are already concretized are de-concretized, manually without use of JCB machines so that the roots and trunks are not damaged, by leaving soil filled space of one meter radius to allow percolation of water to the roots thereof within two months from the date of issuance of the instructions;

(iii) That during fresh construction of roads/ pavements etc, a fresh clause is added in the tender documents that one meter area around the trees shall be left de-concretized/soil filled to allow percolation of water to the roots and that.

(iv) That concretization of road berms beyond footpath and central verge of the roads/ pathways be avoided and appropriate land scaping with plantation of grass, shrubs, flowering plants may be done, as may be viable.

The court cautioned that the area of parks cannot be indiscriminately reduced in the name of making provision for parking and concretization of the same.

The bench headed by Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi said that keeping in view of the importance of protection and proper maintenance of open spaces, parks, green belts and instances of conversion of part or whole of open spaces, parks, green belts in the state of Punjab coming up before the NGT, the court directed the constitution of a joint committee comprising representatives of MoEF&CC, CPCB, Department of Urban Planning, Punjab; Department of Local Bodies, Punjab among others.

The joint committee has been directed to compile information regarding all green areas/parks/green belts reserved in the respective areas of all the municipal bodies in Punjab with requisite details such location, revenue number, boundaries, measurements, encroachments if any among others.

The entire information so gathered should be uploaded on the website of the district administration and municipal bodies for seeking "public participation for protection of green areas/parks/green belts reserved in the respective areas of all the municipal bodies" of the state. This will help against any encroachment and also ensure proper use and maintenance.

The committee has also been entrusted to verify the factual position of per capita green cover and assess its adequacy in view of the number of residents and give suggestions for remedial measures required to be taken for proper user, development, maintenance, protection and improvement of such green areas/parks/green belts reserved in the respective areas of all the municipal bodies in the state. The committee can constitute sub committees, seek reports from concerned administrative officers, NGOs and other experts in the field as may be considered appropriate and also "seek complaints from members of public".

A report has to be submitted by the joint committee within three months to the tribunal and also to the Chief Secretary, Punjab "for such action on the recommendations of the Joint Committee as may be considered appropriate". The NGT recommended that the government of Punjab should consider the "desirability of making suitable amendments" for protection of green areas/parks/green belts and trees.

Punjab should also look into the possibility of enactment of appropriate legislation on the lines of the Uttar Pradesh Parks, Playgrounds and Open Spaces (Preservation and Regulation) Act, 1975 and the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994/the Uttar Pradesh Protection of Trees in Rural and Hill Areas Act, 1976. The Chief Secretary to Government of Punjab is directed to place the above suggestion before the Government of Punjab within two months for such action as may be considered appropriate, said the order.