Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has raised a red flag over the construction of a toll plaza and adjoining offices at Chandimandir on the Panchkula-Shimla highway (NH-22) for alleged violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
In reply to an RTI application, the regional office of the ministry in Chandigarh has replied, "As per the record available in this office, neither any project proposal under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, regarding diversion of any forest land for construction of Toll-plaza and buildings by NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) through M/s Himalayan Expressway Construction Company at NH 22 near Chandimandir, District Panchkula, Haryana has been received in this office nor any approval has been given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Northern Region Office at Chandigarh for the same."
The RTI application was filed by Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Vijay Bansal.
"We have written a letter to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Haryana, to give a report on this violation. The company needed to take permission from us for construction of toll plaza and its offices at Chandimandir. We had granted the permission only for widening of road," said SK Sehrawat, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (central), MoEF.
Earlier, the state governments used to divert forest land for non-forest purposes but with the implementation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the permission from MoEF is required. For diversion to non-forest purposes, equal measure of revenue land is to be provided along with compensatory afforestation cost plus net present value of the forest land.
MoEF has the option of removing the toll plaza and adjacent buildings or charge hefty fine to the concessionaire.
District Town Planner, Panchkula, Hitesh Sharma, has also raised objections to the buildings which have come along with toll plaza for violation of Punjab New Capital (Periphery) Control Act, 1952. The objective of the Act is to prevent growth of slums and ramshackle construction, within 10 miles on all sides from the outer boundary of the land acquired for Chandigarh. The penal action on this violation is pending for legal opinion sought by DTP.