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Activists see red over forest dept’s plan to plant 22K trees 32km from deforested site in Chauma village

Forest department’s decision to plant 22,000 trees in Aravalli foothills this monsoon has not gone down well with the environmentalists who want the compensatory afforestation should be done in situ.

gurgaon Updated: Jul 09, 2019 07:41 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
NGT,chauma village,palam vihar
In 2017, a realtor had chopped 2,200 trees in the PLPA-protected Chauma village instead of the sanctioned 22 trees.(HT Archive)

The district forest department has decided to plant 22,000 trees in the foothills of the Aravalli this monsoon to compensate for the 2,200 trees that were felled in Chauma village near Palam Vihar in 2017 by a private real estate developer in collusion with officials from the department.

Environmentalists, however, cried foul saying the afforestation should be “in situ”.

To make up for the damage, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had, in May, instructed the forest department to plant 10 times as many trees in the area as were felled. The Tribunal had also imposed a fine of Rs 1.5 crore on the developer, and asked the forest department to take action against errant officials, who had allowed more than 2,000 trees to be cut instead of the sanctioned 22.

A forest department official, on Monday, confirmed that the compensatory afforestation would begin during the ongoing monsoon season, and that majority of the saplings will belong to native tree species, though the official was unable to name specific varieties.

Asked when the plantation drive would be complete, the official replied, requesting anonymity, “It will take some time, given the number of trees, but we aim to complete it at the earliest.” The official added, “Most of the saplings will be planted in the region around Damdama Lake, where the environment is under stress.”

Gurugram district forest officer Deepak Nanda did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment.

Activists, however, expressed dismay at the proceedings. Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist who had filed a complaint with the state environment ministry in 2017 (in relation to the tree cutting), said, “Damdama Lake and Chauma village are quite far apart. The afforestation should happen in situ. Also, planting saplings now will mean at least 10 years before the society will be able to benefit from the presence of fully grown trees. There can be no real compensation for the loss of a tree.”

On July 26, the vigilance team of the forest department along with the Gurugram police arrested forest guard Praveen Kumar, under whose watch 1,322 fully-grown trees and 921 smaller trees had been felled.

The police are still on the lookout for two other officials, including forester Khajan Singh and range officer Amardeep, who are at large.

In March this year, the NGT had asked the forest department to submit a damage report in the matter, following which the department was instructed, in May, to carry out compensatory afforestation in the city.

First Published: Jul 09, 2019 03:00 IST