Around 1,100 trees were felled in the forest area along the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in this district to fill the canal on March 16 and 17, a forest department official said here on Wednesday.
According to the department, the 34-km stretch has more than one lakh trees in the 290-hectare forest land.
The department had feared a bigger loss but the apex court order for maintaining status quo prevented any further damage.
Mohali divisional forest officer Tejinder Singh said the department had recovered around Rs 70,000 in penalty from the defaulters till Wednesday. “We are making damage reports and trying to identify the culprits and impose penalty,” he said.
The department claimed that they had earlier sought help from the police, who had sent them some queries. “Then, we wrote to the SSP again and started work at our end,” he said. However, Singh did not divulge the identity of those on whom the fine was imposed. “Yes, they were farmers, not political leaders,” he said when asked about involvement of any political party. He said the department had found a large number of cut trees and logs that were in their custody.
Singh said the department had not filed complaints with the police after they failed to take action on their earlier requests. When asked about the worst affected areas, Singh said Chunni Khurd and Bhateri were the main areas while two to three other villages were also affected. “The only points that were easily approachable faced the plunder, otherwise the forest is fine,” he said.
The SSP could not be contacted for comment. The owner of the two machines used for filling the canal refused to comment.
Around 150 earth-moving machines were seen in the SYL area in the district on March 16 soon after the Punjab Vidhan Sabha passed a bill refusing to share waters with Haryana. On March 17, the number of machines reduced to less than half. It was only after the Supreme Court asked to maintain status quo that the plundering of forest stopped. The department claimed that the police were not helping them and it would take them many days to calculate the loss.