Giving a new definition to forests, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday said that a piece of land should remain under the forest category only as long as there are adequate trees on that land. Khattar’s statement, however, has not gone down well with environmentalists.
“(Speaking) on forest land or any other land, it will remain forest till plants are there,” Khattar said. He said that a piece of land may come under the forest category after tree plantation or development of green belt. But, if trees do not remain there after a few years for any reason, then the files related to the land should be with the original department and not with the forest department.
Khattar was speaking at the launch of Green Gurgaon initiative by a consortium of 19 private companies. The companies will adopt areas within 100 metres of their offices and develop green belts.
The CM said the state government will form new rules and regulations by scrapping some archaic forest laws so that people are not afraid of forestry.
Khattar said social organisations and people from the corporate sector are afraid that if trees are planted on a land, it will be termed as a forest. After 20 years, whether those trees survive or not, the land will be considered as forest land and it will be tough to utilise it for other purposes, Khattar said.
“It is unfortunate that a case about the definition of forest has been pending before the Supreme Court for the last many years,” he said.
Environmentalists said Khattar’s statement will set a wrong precedent and adversely impact the future of the Aravallis where trees are being axed regularly.
“This statement is unfortunate. It will set a bad precedent and have a negative impact on the Aravallis where patches are being cleared every day. People will now start cutting trees to clear land for commercial purposes,” Vivek Kamboj, founder of Gurgaon-based NGO Haryali, said. He said the government should instead provide more power to the forest department so that they can initiate action against those cutting trees.
CM launches Wi-Fi zones
CM Manohar Lal Khattar launched free Wi-Fi zones created at four locations — Sadar Bazaar, Sirhaul village, Leisure Valley park in Sector 29 and MG Road on Sunday. This facility is being provided by the Municipal corporation of Gurgaon with the support of Airtel. Supporting the formation of a Gurgaon Development Authority, Khattar said that discussions have started to remove complexities in Gurgaon.