State orders realty firm to stop work after trees felled in Aravallis
The forest department on Thursday swung into action after receiving a complaint from environment activists about trees felled in the Aravallis to free up space for a housing project.
Activists alleged that in just two days, more than 600 trees were chopped over a 52-acre plot in the Sarai Khwaja village of Faridabad for a group housing project.Earlier, on June 21, more than 10,000 trees and bushes copped the axe at the same site and the case in this regard is in the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
In their complaint, the activists urged the Haryana government to take appropriate action against the violators, as the site, which once had around 1,530 trees, now has less than 100.
Taking note of the complaint, the forest department directed the realty firm, Bharti Land Ltd, to stop construction at the site. “We have initiated action and have stopped tree felling at the site,” D Hembram, conservator of forest, South Haryana, said.
The activists alleged that with the post of the divisional forest officer of Faridabad falling vacant, the developer cocked a snook at building norms in place in protected zones and carried out tree felling over the 52-acre plot in the Aravallis. They said the act marks a clear violation of the environmental clearance conditions.
“The firm must not bring down the existing tall 411 trees at the site, and, if required, translocate them under the guidance of a tree expert. The site has around 1,119 trees, which are native to the Aravalli region and may be translocated or replaced with tall plants as per the terms of the settlement proposed,” said Chetan Agarwal, an environment analyst, in a letter to the forest department.
“The environmental clearance for the said land clearly states in condition No. 26, that the project proponent shall not cut any existing tree and project landscaping plan should be modified to include those trees in the green area (sic),” the letter further states.
“At a time when the matter is sub-judice, the forest department of Government of Haryana is expected to ensure that there is no violation (of environmental norms) in the area,” Jitender Bhadana, member, Save Aravalli, an NGO striving for environment protection, said.
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC), in September, had submitted an inquiry report in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stating that the area where more than 10,000 trees were cut on June 21 to make way for a group housing society, is ‘deemed forest’ and the permission for tree felling was incorrect.
The next hearing in this case is scheduled to be held on January 9.
“The latest tree felling by the realty firm clearly shows that it is not deterred by the case, which is currently in the NGT,” Vivek Kamboj, a Gurgaon-based environmentalist, said.
A spokesperson for Bharti Realty, the firm which is overseeing the project concerned, said that the allegations are incorrect. “We are planting saplings in that area. We have no plans to cut trees in the area,” the spokesperson said.
As per the petition in the NGT, the area is part of the natural conservation zone (NCZ) under the Regional Plan 2021, and construction activity should be confined to 0.5% of the total expanse of the area.