The proposal to increase the penalty for illegal felling of trees from Rs 50 to Rs 5,000 is still pending with the Haryana Government. As the state also does not have a Tree Act, developers find it easy to axe trees for commercial and individual projects.
The Haryana forest department had sent a proposal to the principal chief conservator of forest to increase the penalty for illegal felling of trees in March last year. However, the same has yet to be approved.
Thus, the forest department has been rendered toothless and is unable to enforce norms to restore the city’s shrinking green cover and take stringent action against violators.
“We can also issue a fine of Rs 50 for every tree chopped off illegally in Gurgaon if authorised to do so. However, the existing government policy does not vest us with the power to act strictly against violators,” MD Sinha, conservator of forest, South circle, Haryana, said.
While the neighbouring Delhi government has successfully implemented the “Tree Act” to protect its green cover, the Haryana government is still sitting on the proposal, the activists said.
“Implementing a Tree Act is the need of the hour. The city’s master plan prioritises roads over green belts and says that green belts are temporary and are meant for expansion of roads. This reduces the zonal protection of green belts,” Chetan Agarwal, an environment analyst, said.
As per the law currently in force in Delhi, for every tree felled, the violator has to deposit Rs 34,500 into the forest department account and plant 10 saplings. The cost for civic authorities nearly doubles to Rs 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.