Owing to the absence of a strong piece of legislation to check the random and indiscriminate felling of trees and boost the city’s fast depleting green cover, Gurgaon has already lost five times more trees this year, official data has revealed.
Now in a bid to step up pressure on the authorities to bring a legislation to boost the city’s tree cover, environment activists have joined hands with concerned residents to launch an online campaign. The campaign calls for implementation of the ‘Tree Act’ across Gurgaon at the earliest.
They have even moved a petition to Union environment minister Anil Dave, urging him to act swiftly as the region continues to lose its green cover and cry out for some respite from runaway pollution.
As many as 8,000 full grown trees have been chopped this year in Gurgaon, which is the highest as compared to the last three years. The grim figure has set alarm bells ringing as, at 3.8%, Haryana has the second lowest forest cover in the entire country.
As per the law currently in force in Delhi, for every tree felled, the violator has to deposit ₹34,500 into the forest department’s account and plant 10 saplings. The cost for civic authorities nearly doubles to ₹57,000 per tree.
Also, under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994, anyone found flouting the rules could be liable for a jail term of up to 7 years.
However, since Haryana has no such Act is place, the city remains a soft target for those who indulge in illegal and indiscriminate felling of trees, the activists claimed.
“The penalty of tree felling is negligible in the city. This encourages the culprits to continue flouting the rules without fear. There is simply no deterrence. Even the (forest) officials often concede that they don’t have enough power to act against violators and exact penalties from them,” Jitender Bhadana, an environment activist who initiated the online campaign, said.
Though there has been a proposal to increase the penalty for illegal felling of trees from ₹50 to ₹5,000, it is still pending with the Haryana government. Since the state also does not have a Tree Act, developers find it easy destroy the tree cover to free up space for commercial and individual projects, Vivek Kamboj, an environment activist, said.
The forest department said that they had sent the proposal in March last year . “Haryana is losing its green cover at an alarming rate every year and implementing Tree Act is the need of the hour to preserve our trees and encourage residents to opt for transplantation,” MD Sinha, conservator of forest, South Haryana, said.