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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has ordered the city’s forest department to ensure that tree-felling permissions granted by tree officers are uploaded on the official website within 48 hours.

Last week, Justice Najmi Waziri directed the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) to take steps in this regard after the petitioner in a case informed the court that there was a lag between the data available for the public with respect to tree felling and the actual numbers of such permissions granted. Appearing for petitioner Bhavreen Kandhari, advocate Aditya Prasad informed the court that data was computed by the petitioners from the permissions for tree felling as uploaded on the website of the department of forests from April 28 to August 27.

However, subsequently, 92 orders relating to the same period were also uploaded, changing the nature of the data.

Prasad, therefore, urged the court to direct the authorities to be more prompt in making such data public. HC then directed the PCCF to “ensure that orders under Section 9 of Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, be uploaded within 48 hours of being passed.” The section refers to trees cut after taking permission from the tree officer. Meanwhile, in a related matter being heard by the same bench, another plea claimed that over five trees were cut every hour in Delhi in the last three years. In an affidavit, petitioner Neeraj Sharma recently informed the court that some missing data had now been provided by the forest department on tree-felling permissions and figures showed that the number of trees lost every hour in the capital was five and not three, as earlier recorded.

Giving a breakup of the figures, the affidavit stated that the total number of trees allowed to be felled under official sanction for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 under all categories (except category 5, which is damaged due to storm or rains) was 1,33,117. Sharma’s affidavit stated that when the total number was divided by three, the average figure of trees cut per year came to around 44,373 or 122-odd trees per day, which turned out to be five trees cut per hour during the three-year period.

According to an earlier government data submitted to HC, the forest department granted permission either to cut or transplant at least 77,000 trees, or three trees every hour, for developmental work in the city in the last three years.

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