A portion of the three hectare deemed forest land in Delhi Cantonment area has been cleared of undergrowth and bushes and converted into a recreational spot, complete with art installations drilled onto trees, decorative fountains and stone pathways, in violation of the Forest Conservation Act (1980).

The army, in response to HT’s queries, clarified that no tree has been cut nor any machine used, and the area has been developed as a “recreational spot”.

The Delhi forest department, last October, had sent a notice to the army, noting that a portion of the green area between Mandir Marg and Cassels Road in Cantonment was being developed as a recreational spot named “Taurus Plaza”.

The notice said teams from the office of deputy conservator forests (western range) conducted inspections in the area and found that bushes and undergrowth had been cleared away with excavators, which was not only a violation of the Forest Conservation Act, but also in contrivance of a 1997 Supreme Court judgment, which prohibits such “non-forest” activity.

“During field visits by officials of this division, it has been observed that the user agency has cleared away bushes and grass and has levelled the area using JCB machines (excavators). Also, there is work of landscaping going on in the area,” the notice from the forest department read.

The notice added, “You are hereby directed not to carry out any non-forest activity within the deemed forest land of 3 hectares.”

The original list of marked deemed forest areas, which was submitted as an affidavit before the Supreme Court in 1997, includes the three-hectare green space between Mandir Marg and Cassels Road in Delhi Cantonment.

When Hindustan Times visited the area that is now known as ”Taurus Plaza”, where benches and pathways have also been laid out for the public, we saw that while developing the space as a recreational spot, trees have been drilled and decorative items and art installations such as bird houses, cycles and mannequins have been speared onto them.

The residents of the cantonment said till a few months ago, this area was a green space with a walking path and a few benches placed near the roadside, where people could sit and watch the peacocks. Now that the thick bushes and undergrowth have been hacked away, and with more people visiting the plaza, peacock sightings have become rare.

Responding to HT’s queries on the development of this space, which has been marked as ”deemed forest land”, an army spokesperson said that army is involved in tree plantation drives at all its stations.

“Delhi Cantonment is considered the lungs of Delhi by contributing to the clean air. Within the cantonment, we also maintain recreational and environmental parks, which provide open spaces to communities and also educate our future generations about the relevance and importance of nature,” the office of additional directorate general, public information, said.

It further said, “We have replied to the agency concerned that there has been no cutting of trees or the use of any plant machine in the said area.”

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