In a move to preserve the fast depleting green cover in Gurgaon, the Haryana forest department has sent a proposal to principal chief conservator of forest to increase the penalty for illegal felling of trees from Rs 200 to Rs 5,000.
Large-scale development projects and widening of roads have eaten into the emerald cover of the city. With no “Tree Act,” it is easy for any party to axe trees for commercial projects and this prompted the authorities to consider levying a heftier fine.
A reply to an RTI query recently revealed that Gurgaon lost 2,140 fully grown trees in 2015, which is almost 300% more when compared to the 738 trees axed in 2013-14.
The number of trees chopped for making roads was 1,351 in 2014-15, whereas only 398 trees were allowed to be cut in 2013-14 for the same purpose.
“I strongly feel that the penalty for felling trees should increase,” said MD Sinha, conservator of forest, Gurgaon. Penalty is slapped on anyone who fells trees in a protected or reserved forest area notified under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA)-1900.
Officials said increasing the penalty will help in curbing the offence as violators had “begun to take the penalty for granted”.
“Once the proposal is passed, the offence is bound to decrease,” Sinha said.
The forest department will also reduce the time limit in the permission granted for tree felling. “At present, one gets permission for tree felling till the end of the financial year, now we will change it to either six months or the end of financial year, whichever is earliest,” he said.
Environmentalists also said there is an urgent need for a Tree Act in the state. “It is a reasonable proposal. Tree felling for any commercial purpose should be penalised more,” said Chetan Agarwal, environment analyst.
Environmentalists also pointed out that in neighbouring Delhi, for cutting one tree, a person had to deposit `34,500 with the forest department and plant 10 saplings. For civic agencies the cost was `57,000 per tree, under Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994. Any illegal felling of trees could invite imprisonment of up to seven years. The Act also specifies that the forest department is responsible for the planting and upkeep of five saplings while the applicant would plant the remaining five. The applicant can claim part of the deposit ---R15,000 -- after a span of five years only after a survey by the forest department.
However, Haryana doesn’t have any such act to preserve its green lungs, the activists said.