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Electric poles on forest land draw ire of green activists

The plot is part of the panchayat Aravalli common lands, and has been recorded as “gair mumkin pahar” in revenue records.

gurgaon Updated: May 31, 2019 08:09 IST
Prayag Arora-Desai
Prayag Arora-Desai
Gurugram
electric poles,forest land,green activists
The power line crosses the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway.(HT Photo)

Activists have raised an alarm over continued violations of environment laws in Faridabad, days after the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) installed electric poles and set up a power line on a 4-acre plot of forest land in the Aravallis. The line crosses the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway.
The site is notified under sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, making any non-forestry activity illegal as per Supreme Court orders. Situated on the main Gurgaon-Faridabad Road within a few hundred yards of Asola wildlife sanctuary, and in close proximity to the Mangar Bani sacred grove, the plot has been cleared of almost 1,000 trees since 2015, and since been fenced off and levelled using earth-moving machines, according to activists Jitender Bhadana and Sunil Harsana, who have been urging authorities to look into the matter since.
The plot is part of the panchayat Aravalli common lands, and has been recorded as “gair mumkin pahar” in revenue records. “However, these lands were dubiously privatised in the 80s and illegally partitioned thereafter by misusing the Land Consolidation Act,” said Chetan Agarwal, a forest analyst.

“However, despite filing multiple RTIs in relation to the matter and even filing a complaint with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), we have not received any details from the forest department on actions taken,” said Bhadana.

“According to available records, the land does not come under any private ownership. We have asked the forest department to provide us with evidence of the same, but have not received any documents to that effect,” he further said.

NGT ruling

On December 7 last year, in response to an application filed by local activist Sarvadaman Oberoi, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the Faridabad forest department and commissioner of police to prosecute the respondents in the matter, namely Raj Singh, Krishnakanth Jakkad, and the claimant to the land, Dev Raj Kamboj, for contravention of the PLPA, 1900 and Forest Act, 1980. In his response, Kamboj had feigned ignorance of any tree felling or other violations.

Suresh Punia, district forest officer, Faridabad, refuted allegations of collusion and negligence by the forest department. “As per the NGT order, we have initiated prosecution against the respondents in the environmental court, and will also be requesting them to levy a penalty of ₹83 lakh for various environment law violations.”

As for the recently established power supply, Punia said the power discom has done it illegally. “We have already sought an explanation from them in the matter and will take appropriate action.”

Despite repeated attempts, DHBVN officials could not be contacted for comments.

The site in question is half a kilometre from the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in New Delhi, and is also part of the contiguous forest between Asola sanctuary, the Mangar forest area and sacred grove. The NGT, in its December 2017 order, also recognised the area as an important wildlife corridor. Presently, the site is fenced off using bamboos, and has a gated structure built on it, which the activists say has been ignored by the forest department.

“The land in question… is admittedly a land governed under the notification issued under sections 4 and 5 of PLP Act by the State of Haryana where no non-forest activity is permissible and the land requires to be protected as such, as mandated under the provision of different Act. In the given circumstances it is difficult to accept the plea of innocence put forward by Respondent No 5,” the court observed, referring to Kamboj.

Kamboj could not be reached for comment on Thursday for this story.

First Published: May 31, 2019 00:37 IST