Next time you erect a fence or a boundary wall outside your house or commercial establishment, better be careful. If the area falls on the notified forest strip, you might have to pay a hefty fine running into lakhs of rupees for destroying greenery.
Forest officials can now charge offenders at the rate of Rs 21,000 per sq metre as against the earlier rate of Rs 50 for destroying greenery.
Haryana Forest department has, for the first time, effected a steep hike in the penalty charges for those destroying greenery on any type of forest land.
It includes reserved forests, protected forest strips along major roads and forest land closed under various sections of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, with immediate effect.
A committee headed by the Conservator of Forests (Haryana Government), South Circle, R.P. Balwan has issued the revised rates.
According to Balwan, the district forest officers of five districts — Gurgaon, Faridabad, Rewari, Mahindergarh and Mewat — had complained that the violations on forest land, including the Aravallis, were on the rise in these districts. They said penalty rates were too low and the offenders had no fear of the law.
“On the basis of recommendations made by committee members, I have issued a new rate list of penalty charges. Now, if the people are found to be removing greenery or constructing cemented/concrete floors for beautification, the forest officers would have the power to charge Rs 20,000 for damaging the forest eco-system at each sq metre of land and demand compensation at the rate of Rs. 1000 per square metre. He would also be at liberty to prosecute the offender in the environment court,” Balwan said.
However, earlier offenders were charged Rs 50 per sq metre as compensation for destroying greenery on the forestland and there were no separate penalty charges for damaging the forest eco-system.
Besides, reserved forests and forest land closed under various sections of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, the new set of penalty charges would cover some of the major roads, such as MG Road, Old Delhi Road, Sohna Road and Pataudi Road where construction activity has been rampant in the last few years, said Balwan.
When asked about the chances of new set of penalty charges being misused by the forest officers against offenders, Balwan ruled out such a possibility.
“The district forest officers would issue receipts,” he said.