In a move that could have raised the hackles of environmentalists, the Haryana on Friday passed an order stating that permission will not be required to clear up of majority trees in the Aravallis. The government, however, revoked the order after facing a barrage of criticism.
The order came after the Haryana government added Kikar and Mesquite trees into the exempted list of trees under Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900. The list includes trees that can be felled without permission.
Earlier, the exempted trees included Eucalyptus, Poplar, Bakain, Bamboo, Tut, Amrood and Ailanthus under PLPA area.
Vilayati kikar dominates the Aravalli Ridge, as it has adapted well in the region. The small, evergreen, spiny tree, which has the capacity to survive in harsh environment, was introduced to the ridge in the early 1870s by Britishers in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Earlier, the Aravalli range consisted of a thick and dense forest; however, rapid urbanisation destroyed most of it.
On Saturday, however, the Haryana forest secretary said that the order has been revoked.
“We realised our mistake and the order have been cancelled. Now, the status quo remains,” said Sunil Gulati, additional chief secretary to government of Haryana, Wild Life and Forest Department.
About 1,00,000 hectares of land falls under the Aravallis in southern Haryana. More than 25,000 hectares are identified as forest under sections 4 and 5 of PLPA. Around 62,000 hectares have been identified as natural conservation zone (NCZ), while another 12,800 hectares have been put under the ‘yet to be decided’ category.
“If the tree cover density is less than 10% then the area is not considered as forest. This is what the government tried on Friday. They issued an order so that real estate lobbies will be able to chop down all the trees in Aravallis before the government can pass a decision regarding forest or not forest category,” said Vivek Kamboj, environmentalist.
Environment analyst Chetan Aggarwal, said, “It will lead to a fait accompli situation whereby – owners of privatised Aravalli common lands can clear the entire landholdings, on the basis of the exempt tree order, and then claim that as there are no trees on their lands, their land is not deemed forest as per dictionary meaning – hence forest act will not apply.”
This is not the first time Haryana has tried doing it, in April 2015, the government had issued an order stating that large areas of forests, including most parts of the sacred Mangar bani forest, can be treated as ‘not forest’, later in the same month that was changed to “status to be determined”.