The state government’s move to appoint the horticulture director of Noida authority, B Prabhakar, as the divisional forest officer (DFO) has made green activists cry foul.
Activists have said there will be an issue of ‘conflict of interests’ since the authority has to often cut trees for development projects and seek permission from the forest department.
“Since the same officer is holding the two posts, the premise of development will supersede green concerns,” said Ashok Sharma, an activist. When asked if the two posts could be held by one officer, the chief conservator of forests in Meerut, Sunil Pandey, under whose jurisdiction Gautam Budh Nagar district comes, only said the decision had been made by the state government.
Prabhakar is an Indian Forest Service officer, who came to the Noida authority on deputation from the forest department a few years ago. Recently, divisional forest officer Sunil Dubey was transferred. Against the practice of asking the DFO of a neighbouring district, to hold the additional charge, Prabhakar was told to function as DFO as well.
Sanjay Singh Bhatti, president of district bar association, said, "Technically one should not hold the two posts at a time."
Authority sources said the last DFO was transferred because he was "creating obstacles" in the authority's plans of cutting around 300 trees and shifting 100 more for a mega real estate project. The permission was obtained after his transfer.
When the DFO authorised felling and shifting of around 400 trees to make way for a real estate project in September, a non-government organisation alleged violations of the environment norms. The NGO wrote to the Centre and the state government to roll back the decision.
The authority admitted there were 417 trees at the site, of which it felled 309 and shifted 114. Saying there was no violation of norms, the authority said the felling was sanctioned by the DFO and for every tree felled, two would be planted.
The realtor has been asked to go for compensatory forestation. B Prabhakar said a parallel green belt was being set up in the same area.