The forest department’s lax attitude has cost the green cover dear. It failed to re-notify the Punjab Land and Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900 for about a month and developers made the most of this goof-up.
Environmentalists claim that private developers axed some 600-800 grown-up trees, including one state tree ‘pipal’ between December and January for constructing a residential and office complex near Guru Dronacharya Metro station on MG Road. The forest department has admitted to felling of about 100 trees only.
The time when trees were felled on 10 acres of land, which didn’t have a clearance from the forest department, coincided with the expiry of the PLPA in Gurgaon. Section 4 of the Act, which empowers the forest department to regulate, restrict or prohibit offenders from carrying out non-forestry activities in notified areas, had expired in Gurgaon on November 27, 2012. The re-notification came on January 4, 2013.
The sad part is that violators can get away with this crime as there was no law in place to protect the green cover during December and January. But officials are insensitive towards the loss. “Just by cutting some 100 trees, the green cover doesn’t decrease. The government has all the right to discontinue the PLPA. Who will protect the green cover then? It is not the fault of the department so no action can be taken in this case,” countered CR Jotriwal, principal chief conservator of forest, Haryana forest department.
Pankaj Goel, conservator of the Gurgaon forest department, was unaware of the incident. “I was on a vacation during the time of the felling of trees, but will soon find out,” he said.
Environmentalist Vivek Kamboj, founder of NGO Haryali, wants strict action against the violators. “Either the department intentionally delayed the re-notification of the PLPA or the builders were aware of its expiry. I have a satellite image of the area, where the trees have been axed. Images show that the trees were cut between December and January as February images show the trees sprouting,” he said.