About a dozen trees were axed in an area of nearly 1.5 acres, claimed to be part of the sacred grove near Mangar village, in the early hours of Friday. The area falls under Section 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) and cutting of trees in the area without permission is prohibited.
This is the fourth such incident at the same spot -- located within a stone’s throw from Mangar police station -- in a span of six months.
In the first instance, over 500 trees were hacked, the villagers said. The second instance saw another 50 being cut, while the third resulted in the loss of 30 trees.
The villagers claimed that around 1 am, a group of 8-9 people entered the area with earth movers and trucks and started clearing trees. When the forest guards tried to question the violators, they were allegedly beaten up.
After numerous instances of tree felling were reported from the area, these guards were deployed to keep a watch. They were able to nab two men involved in the incident and hand them over to the police.
Even after the police arrested the two men, around 3 am, unidentified persons entered the plot and tried to level the land.
Villagers and forest guards said it was evident that the violators tried to level the land as soil, which is not indigenous to the area, was dumped on the plot.
The forest department has confirmed the violation and said it has filed a damage report in the incident and also lodged an FIR against the plot owner, Devraj Kamboj.
“We have received a complaint about tree felling in Mangar village area, located along the Gurgoan-Faridabad road. The violators posed as police officers and claimed that they belong to “CIA Haryana”. Two people were arrested. Police will now investigate further as this was a well-planned activity. The police have not seized the earth mover and the truck,” said MD Sinha, conservator of forest, Gurgaon circle.
“Our forest watchers are doing their job and the area is under constant surveillance. But the police have to cooperate in this case,” he said.
The location of the plot, within half a kilometre of the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, makes the area even more sensitive.
These tree felling instances are a violation of the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to maintain status quo in Mangar.
Environment activists said the trees were axed possibly to make way for construction activity. They also pointed out that such incidents are repeatedly taking place in the area, despite a police station in its vicinity.
“This area is prone to tree felling and, recently, these activities have increased,” said Sunil Harsana, environmentalist and local resident.
“This tree felling was a planned move and was done to gain access to the land which was blocked by the forest department,” said Chetan Agarwal, environment analyst.