The national capital can turn into a desert if the green cover and forest land fall prey to illegal construction and encroachment, the Delhi High Court has observed.
It said this environmental issue was a matter of concern and needed to be addressed on a war footing in view of the adverse impact due to global warming.
"The city is facing (the threat) of advent of a desert.
It is the biggest threat the city is facing as green cover goes away," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar observed while hearing a PIL against alleged encroachment on forest land near Neb Sarai village in south Delhi.
The petition has sought blocking of a road constructed in the forest to provide access for emergency vehicles to reach Indira Enclave, an unauthorised colony, close to the posh Sainik Farms area which too has been in the news over alleged illegal constructions there.
The court did not approve of the road being built through the forest, which is in the ridge area of the city, saying, "You cannot make an unauthorised construction and then seek all kinds of benefit."
It said, "The forest land cannot be converted into a thoroughfare which is clearly beyond planned development under the Master Plan."
It noted that the Supreme Court had in 1980 ordered that no encroachment in the ridge area could be permitted and that the law laid down by it had to be "strictly complied" with.
"This is more so in view of the imperative need for addressing environmental concerns on a war footing in view of the adverse impact of global warming," the court said.
The Delhi government, represented by advocate Gautam Narayan, said the office of the deputy conservator of forest had passed an order for blocking of the road and building of a wall in the demarcated forest area to protect it from encroachment.
However, the residents of Indira Enclave had challenged the order and obtained a stay on its operation, he told the court.
The bench, thereafter, directed that the area in question be maintained as a forest land and said "no encroachment or construction whatsoever including laying of a road therein was or is permissible".
It ordered the Delhi government to take steps forthwith to ensure that a boundary wall is constructed all around the forest area and the land is strictly protected from any encroachment as well as illegal and unauthorised construction.
The court directed that the wall be built within two months and an action taken report be placed before it before the next date of hearing on July 31.
"The respondents shall take urgent steps for putting up temporary fencing/barricades immediately, to be replaced by the permanent wall at the earliest. After the fence is constructed, videography of the area will be done," it said.