The state government might have spent huge amount of money in afforestation across the state to save the ecology, due to negligence or alleged help of forest department officers, railway workers have fallen nearly 500 young trees from the protected forest area without taking mandatory permission from the department.
The permission, if obtained, could have added lakhs of rupees in to state exchequer, claimed Subhash Chander Sharma, a retired forest officer.
He had also lodged a written complaint to the senior officials of forest department and wildlife preservation authority in this regard.
Vide notification issued on May 3, 1958 by state government, the strips of government forest or waste lands on either side of all roads, canals and railways in Punjab was declared as protected forest area and permission of the forest department is mandatory to cut tree from these areas.
"The trees were planted in 2003-2004 by the department on the banks of Ferozepur-Jalandhar railway line under my supervision when I was the range in-charge and muster roll for making payment to the labourers must be in the department records as lakhs of rupees were spent by the department on this project," Sharma said.
Under the project of closing unmanned railway crossings, a road is being constructed by northern railways along with the railway line from Mirpur railway crossing to Khojewala railway crossing and in this process; unmanned crossing of village Feroze will be closed, Sharma added.
"To level the surface for laying roads, the railway department had uprooted the trees by using JCB machine and forest department officials are yet to wake up from slumber," he rued.
"Uprooted trees lying on nearby fields are often carried by villagers, who use them for fuel.
After my repeated urges, they started removing the trees from the fields," Sharma said.
The department did not count the trees and the railway workers took advantage of it, he claimed.
"The authorities have no right to cut the trees from protected forest area. They violated Section two of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980," said Sharma.
Divisional railway manager NC Goel, showed ignorance on the issue and assured he will seek report from the department regarding the issue.
Range officer Lachhman Singh said, "Only seven to eight trees have been cut by the railway workers and we had asked them to stop work. I am going on site to assess the situation and action will be taken against the guilty,"
However, Lachhman Singh gave the latest report later saying, "20 to 30 trees have been uprooted for road construction but that land was under the custody of railway. We cannot stop them from doing so." Singh also took a dig at Sharma saying, "The complainant in this case is a habitual complainant and he used to do so for his vested interests.