'Lungs of Delhi' cannot be concretised, says high court

Delhi High Court halts all construction, including a wall around Malcha Mahal, in the central ridge forest, saying a monument cannot be protected in this manner

Central Ridge forest area is an extension of the Aravalli hill range in Delhi (photo: Getty Images)
Central Ridge forest area is an extension of the Aravalli hill range in Delhi (photo: Getty Images)


The Delhi High Court on Monday directed that no construction activity, including building a boundary wall around Malcha Mahal, shall be carried out in the central ridge forest area in the national capital.

Taking note of a news report about construction of a boundary wall around the Tughlaq-era monument besides toilets, Justice Jasmeet Singh said there cannot be concretisation of central ridge.

The judge sought a detailed affidavit on the issue from the Delhi government and ordered, "For the time being, it is directed that there shall be no construction at the central ridge including but not restricted to the boundary wall, grille work and toilets." Considered the lungs of the national capital, the ridge is an extension of the Aravalli hill range in Delhi and is a rocky and forested area.

It has been divided into four zones, south, south-central, central and north, owing to administrative reasons. These zones make up a total area of around 7,784 hectares.

Lawyers Gautam Narayan and Aditya N Prasad, who were appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in a contempt case involving issues of tree plantation and green cover, informed Justice Singh about the news report in relation to the proposed construction of a boundary wall around the monument in the central ridge.

Delhi government counsel said Malcha Mahal is a protected monument which is not under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and hence there was a proposal to build a wall around it.

Noting that the central ridge is a protected area, which is not only a source of fresh air but also acts as a barrier against the loo — the strong, dusty, hot and dry summer wind that blows in from Rajasthan — the court said while protection of the monument was important, it cannot be done in the manner proposed.

"The issue needs consideration. As of today, I am of the view that there can't be concretisation of central ridge. The protection of the monument is no doubt important, but not with a 25 m boundary wall or construction of toilets," the court said.

On 28 August, the court had said that ridge areas in Delhi were the “lungs” of the national capital.

Expressing concern over the presence of 63 structures inside the 864-hectare central ridge, the court had made it clear that constructions that do not have any protection from coercive action “have to go”.

It had earlier also expressed displeasure over construction of a concrete road in the central ridge area and asked the city authorities to take corrective measures or face contempt.

The matter will be heard next on 9 October. 

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