Around 100 trees native to the Aravalli hills region were axed on Monday night on the direction of the Pali panchayat in Faridabad. The move was aimed at freeing up space for building a community hall.
Environment activists alleged that the panchayat, about 20 km from the Gurgaon border, hadn’t sought permission of the forest department before chopping trees over a five-acre area. They claimed the panchayat officials levelled the land and had all the trees removed in two days to ensure there was no proof of the felling.
“The area comes within the ambit of the Aravalli forest and the people involved were fully aware of rules in place (with regard to tree felling). They neither informed the municipal authorities nor bothered to approach the forest department for approval. Trees such as Peepal, Papdi and several others, which are native to the Aravallis, were chopped in the cover of night and shifted to another place,” Jitender Bhadana, member of Save Aravalli, an NGO, said.
Some panchayat members said they did seek the permission of the forest department before going ahead with the tree felling. “Krishan Pal, a member of Parliament, laid the foundation stone for the (community hall) project last month. We had sought the permission of the forest department. There is a demand for more community halls in the area,” Sunder Kumar, the panchayat head, said.
While admitting that the Pali panchayat had, indeed, sought permission for the felling of trees, the forest officials denied consenting to the same. “We did not give them permission to cut trees for building a community hall. We were formally approached for permission, but nobody from our end sanctioned the move,” Ranjana, divisional forest officer (DFO), Faridabad, said.
Asked if the forest department was aware that trees native to the Aravalli region were hacked over a five-acre area and removed, she said they received a complaint regarding the tree felling. “We are carrying out an investigation and will soon file a report on how many trees were axed without permission. We will act against the people involved,” the DFO said.
The area comes under Section 4 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) that prohibits cutting of trees without