As many as 200 trees were cleared from nearly 1.5 acres, part of a sacred grove near Mangar village. The area falls in Palli village and is protected under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) and cutting of trees there without permission is prohibited.
Officials of the forest department confirmed that trees were cut in the area on Thursday night and said they have already prepared a damage report. They said the department will lodge a police complaint soon.
“On Friday, we received a complaint about tree felling in Palli village located on the Gurgoan-Faridabad road and will register an FIR,” said Anand, divisional forest officer, Faridabad.
The plot is located half a km from the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, which makes it ecologically sensitive. This is a violation of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order which directs maintenance of status quo in the Mangar region.
Expressing concerns over the cutting of trees, environment activists said this could have been done to carry out construction activities.
“Many incidents of tree felling have been reported from the area in the past and such activities have increased now. After the cutting of trees, the stems were set on fire to clear the land,” said Sunil Harsana, an environmentalist and a resident of the village.
He alleged that the forest department has failed to protect the area.
“The forest department should take steps to increase vigilance in the area,” said, Vivek Kamboj, founder of Haryali, an NGO working for the cause of environment.
The forest department said they will plant saplings in the area to reclaim it.
“I have asked officials to plant saplings. This will send a strong message to those involved in the incident,” said MD Sinha, conservator of forest, Gurgaon.
Talking about the plan to increase vigilance to stop such activities, he said, “We need a rapid response team and vehicles for patrolling. The area is vast and the forest guard is not equipped properly. We have sent a letter to the government seeking funds for the formation of an action force. The proposal is yet to be approved. This is a deliberate attempt to clear the area and use it for construction purposes.”