NGT pulls up Haryana govt for felling 7,000 trees
The green court also asked Haryana government to inform the Centre, by September 30, about the status of identifying forest areas in the state on the basis of the dictionary meaning of the word.Updated: Sep 23, 2018, 02:02 IST
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Haryana government to submit comments to the Centre on whether a 52-acre plot in Faridabad’s Sarai Khwaja village — where more than 7,000 trees were felled last year for a housing project — was a forest area.
As per the order on NGT website on Friday, the green court also asked Haryana government to inform the Centre, by September 30, about the status of identifying forest areas in the state on the basis of the dictionary meaning of the word.
The NGT was hearing a petition against Haryana government for permitting felling of more than 7,000 trees, including mesquite and dhau, to make way for a group housing colony in Sarai Khwaja village.
One of the main contentions of the plea filed by Lt Col (Retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi through advocate Ritwick Dutta was that the Haryana was in violation of the Supreme Court orders – as per the TN Godavarman and Lafarge judgments pertaining to forest issues in 1996 and 2011 respectively — wherein the court had said irrespective of whether an area is a forest as per revenue records, it will be covered by the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and the area cannot be used for any non-forestry activity without the Centre’s permission if it meets the dictionary meaning of the word ‘forest’. The NGT has sought Haryana’s inputs on this issue.
The NGT bench headed by Justice Adarsh Goel also referred to an inquiry and an inspection report on the Sarai Khwaja case filed by the Centre in July 2017 to which Haryana’s inputs was sought. However, Haryana is yet to send its comments.
The inquiry report said that Haryana has, so far, not formulated parameters to classify an area as forest as per its dictionary meaning. “The process of defining forest by its dictionary meaning is inconclusive in Haryana,” the report said.
The real estate company had approached Haryana government for permission to fell trees following which the additional chief secretary, Haryana, had directed the forest department, in a letter dated June 22, 2017, that the area in question is not a forest area or part of natural conservation zone (NCZ) as defined by the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) and hence approval for tree felling can be granted.
But the inquiry report found that the Sarai Khwaja village located in gair mumkin pahar (foothills) is clearly a part of Aravalis and also a part of NCZ. The report also said that the area has moderate to dense vegetation and meets the definition of forest.
The Centre’s inquiry report states that the real estate company violated a condition in the environmental clearance issued to it, which said the company cannot fell any existing tree and the landscaping plan will have to be modified to include these trees.
“In view of the fact that more than one year has passed since the environment ministry asked the Haryana to furnish its inputs, we direct Haryana to furnish its inputs forthwith latest by 30 September 2018,” the order read.