Union Cabinet had cleared construction, but despite reminders Environment Minister has neither rejected nor approved it
The permission to cut or transplant trees for the Union government’s plan to construct a 100-bed hospital in Najafgarh has been pending with the Delhi Environment Minister’s office for almost two-and-a-half years, according to a status report accessed by The Hindu.
The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has written a letter to Lt. Governor Anil Baijal to speed up the process and the letter has also been submitted to the Minister’s office through the Chief Secretary’s office earlier this month, a senior Delhi government official said.
“Multiple reminders on this matter from the Central government have also been submitted to the Environment Minister’s office, but there is no decision yet,” the official said.
Catering to 13 lakh
In May 2018, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cleared the construction of the hospital and said it will cater to 13.65 lakh people. The hospital was supposed to be operational by May 2020.
Later in 2018, the officials had recommended the cutting of trees and as per a status report of the Delhi government, the file for the project was submitted to the Environment Minister on December 18, 2018. The Minister has neither rejected nor approved it.
On April 16, Union Health Minister in a letter to the Lt. Governor directed to “expedite the forest clearance pending before Govt. of NCT of Delhi” for construction of the hospital. Mr. Vardhan said he had written twice to the Chief Minister.
A total of 57 trees have to be cut or transplanted for the project, as per officials. In April, during the peak of COVID-19 infection, people were running from one hospital to another to find hospital beds and on many days, the total vacant beds were only about 5-6%.
As per rules, an applicant can go ahead and cut the trees if the government does not reply within 60 days. But officials said most government projects do not go ahead without a permission, so as to avoid problems in the future.
“The tree officer shall give his decision within sixty days from the date of receipt of the application. If the officer fails to communicate his permission on request within the period specified under sub-section (3), the permission referred to in section 8 shall be deemed to have been granted,” the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, states about permission for cutting of trees.
The report showed that permission to cut trees for about 12 projects are pending before the Environment Minister’s office and many of them are Central government projects.
When contacted, a Delhi government spokesperson refused to comment.
This article was originally published on The Hindu