The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday directed the Haryana government to avoid awarding contract to private contractors for felling dead and dry trees in forest areas in the state as it was hearing a petition in this regard.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar directed that though the tender process for inviting private contractors can go, the contract shall not be awarded.
The tribunal was hearing the plea of Haryali Welfare Society which is opposing the open auction of dry or dead standing trees in forest areas of Sirsa and Pallval districts on the ground that it was tantamount to contravention of the Forest (Conservation) Act.
"...We direct that tender process can go on but the contract for felling of standing trees from the area being subject matter of the present petition shall be avoided in the areas in Sirsa and Pallval districts," the bench said.
The society's advocate Rahul Choudhary relied upon a 1996 Supreme Court judgement, the national forest policy framed by the Centre and the policy of the state government and contended that their combined effect is that standing forest extraction should not be done through private agency.
"The tender notice issued by Haryana on June 14 is in apparent conflict with the order and policy of the Centre and the state government," the petitioner's counsel contended.
Choudhary contended that allowing private contractors to directly enter the forest area for felling trees is complete violation of the apex court's order that all tree-felling operations are to be undertaken by government departments and not by private contractors.
The society contended that according to the National Forest Policy, felling or cutting of trees is not to be done by private contractors but only by institutions such as tribal and labour cooperatives or government corporations.
It alleged that trees to be felled were not marked by the territorial department and neither were lot numbers allotted by the conservator of forests.
It also contended that state forest department's working plan for Sirsa clearly stated that harvesting of trees would be done by two departmental agencies - Production Circle of Forest Department and Haryana Forest Development Corporation.