The union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has asked the Haryana forest department to take action against the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for using more land than permitted for the widening of the Zirakpur-Parwanoo highway by cutting down trees.
The MoEF has, however, asked the department to take action under the Indian Forest Act, although the violations committed by the NHAI fall under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act.
Talking to HT, SK Sehrawat, additional principal chief conservator of forests (central), MoEF, justified the action against the NHAI under the Indian Forest Act. “Haryana can fine the NHAI and also book them for using more forestland than permitted. If NHAI comes to us seeking regularisation of constructions, we’ll penalise it,” he said.
The MoEF had earlier asked the department to submit a detailed report on the violations by the NHAI while widening the highway. Vijay Bansal, an advocate and INLD leader, had raised the issue with MoEF and brought the matter to public knowledge through the RTI Act.
During an inspection on April 18, the department found that in most places, the entire adjoining forestland had been used for the project. It told Haryana principal chief conservator of forests CR Jotriwal that instead of a four-lane road, a six-lane road had been built.
In its report submitted to the MoEF, the department said that while flyovers had been six-laned, two-laned roads had been constructed along them on either side.
The report said the NHAI had constructed service lanes and bus stops by using up the entire forestland available. It said private and army land had also been used for the purpose. As per the report, NHAI did not mention the details of the constructions in the layout and site maps.
The NHAI had proposed diversion of 13.41 hectares of forestland for the project on February 1, 2007. As per the forest department report, 9,967 trees were cut for the project.