The green belt situated in Bungal and Badhani, up to Dunera in Dhar block, is facing a threat from concrete buildings, as the beauty of the place has drawn a number of educational institutes, medical colleges and hotels. Cutting of trees to make way for construction continues unabated, in spite of strict laws, driving wild animals towards cities and villages nearby.
Under the Forest Act, even the land owner is not allowed to cut a tree on his property without prior permission from the forest department. Sections 4 and 5 recommend severe punishment for violators of the Act, though only a few are said to have been punished so far.
The hilly terrain of the green belt extends from Pathankot to the Tunu Hatti barrier in Himachal Pradesh, where many villages like Bungal Badhani and Dunera lie. In these places, many educational institutes and hotels have been established, and and now expanding by purchasing land from small farmers. For the construction of these facilities, the hills have been flattened.
Citizen welfare club president BD Chugh expressed confusion over the state government's actions, which, he said, was spending a huge sum to show its willingness to save trees, while the area was facing the brunt of afforestation.
"Trees are being cut to promote the interests of businessmen. No doubt, if a concrete structure is built in the hills, a road will be required to reach it, and a number of trees will have to be sacrificed to construct it. The state government should stop this practice as the state is already deficient in forests and trees," he claimed.
District forest officer (DFO) Maha Vir Singh said Sections 4 and 5 pertained to small and big hills, respectively, and that it was a big offence to axe a tree in the Bungal and Badhani area. However, lack of severe penalty had undermined the impact of the rule, he admitted, adding that as the forest department had to act against the land owner, police were also helpless.
Asked what action forest department had taken against the erring owners, he said that eight to 10 cases were pending in the courts, adding that now new colleges and institutes were seeking permission to use parts of the green belt, against which the department had sought land of the same size for planting the same number of trees that would be cut down.
"We cannot stop small farmers from selling their land to big players," he added.
Even an inch of forest land should not be lost, as we already have very less forest area
BD Chugh, resident
Trees beautify this place. They need to be saved else the area will become a concrete jungle
Rakesh Sharma, resident.
We are taking an equal amount of land to plant the same number of trees as cut down for construction
Mahavir Singh, district forest officer
We are snatching away the habitat of wild animals, forcing them to venture into residential areas. This needs to stop
Rajesh Mahajan, district forest officer (wildlife)