iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Pankaj Jaiswal, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, September 20, 2013
The National Green Tribunal’s principal bench on Wednesday issued a notice to the UP forest department over the issue of destruction of a Vrindavan forest. The bench headed by justice Dr P Jyothimani also said: “The chief secretaries of UP, Rajasthan and Haryana are directed to ensure that no new projects or industrial activities are permitted or allowed in the Braj region till the next date of hearing.”

The tribunal said: “There shall be an interim order of status quo to be maintained by all the parties which exist as on date. It is made clear that no further construction shall be put up in the Braj region.”

The Braj region falls in the territories of three states Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Rajneesh Kapur, secretary of the Braj Foundation, requesting the tribunal to look into the criminal apathy and inaction of the UP forest department in revival of its protected forest land in Vrindavan (Mathura, UP).

The patch of forestland that the petitioner talked about is an expanse of 119 acres on Vrindavan Road connected to National Highway 2. Despite being protected forestland, it has no trees.

The land is lying barren and being gradually encroached upon by builders.

Illegal mining of soil was going on unabated till the Braj Foundation sounded an alarm to the Mathura district administration.

A formal complaint was lodged with the administration in September last year.

A huge chunk of soil was smuggled out before the district administration swung into action.

The petitioner infor med the tribunal that the plight of Gahvar Van (Barsana in Mathura) was quite similar to that of this patch of Vrindavan forest.

Despite being a protected forest, it was encroached upon and had become the sewerage collection ground with heaps of garbage.

But the Brij Foundation has now re-transformed it into a lush forest.

The petition further stated that, as per the scriptures and folklore, Braj had 137 sacred groves associated with the transcendental pastimes of Hindu deities Radha-Krishna.

Unfortunately, only five of them have survived.

“It was because of our success story with the Gahvar Van that the foundation proposed to protect, develop, beautify and maintain the forest land in Vrindavan. The foundation’s proposal was to spend a huge amount of money to do the restoration work by engaging top professionals of the country. But the UP forest department has been withholding its go-ahead despite having completed all the legal, technical and financial formalities, enabling Braj Foundation to do so, with no financial liability on the UP government,” said Rajneesh Kapur, secretary of the Foundation.

Kapur had pleaded with the tribunal to make the UP forest department allow the Braj Foundation to take up this project in the larger public interest.

The NGO was selected through a transparent process in 2010 as per the guidelines of the ministry of environment and forest. “Hence the respondent cannot shirk away from its responsibility,” said the petition.

The NGO has financial commitment from the Power Grid Corporation of India, the Jamunalal Bajaj Foundation, the Piramal Group and other corporate houses to support this project.

Therefore, the inaction of the state government was delaying the matter and not signing the tripartite agreement was malafide, it was observed.