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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

Gurugram: NGT stays tree felling by CISF in Mandawar, seeks report from forest dept

gurugram Updated: Nov 18, 2019 19:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Taking cognisance of a petition challenging ongoing pre-construction work on 260 acres of forest land in Sohna’s Mandawar village, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered a stay on felling of trees in the region.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which purchased the land earlier this year from the Mandawar gram panchayat, had begun levelling the land with earth-moving machines and was also felling and burning trees at the site. On October 31, the forest department had served a legal notice to the CISF advising them against initiating any such activities without permission of the Central government, as the land in question is protected under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. “It is advised not to start any activity in the area without prior approval under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (FCA). If your staff continues work at this site, this office will be forced to take action as per the forest acts and rules,” read the notice issued by Subash Yadav, Gurugram district forest officer.

The matter was also taken up in a petition filed before the Tribunal by Ram Avtar Yadav, former village chief of Manesar. Avatar’s petition refers to seminal Supreme Court judgments from 1997, 2004 and 2018, which “have clearly stated the importance of the protection of the Aravallis and how deemed forests fall under the purview of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.” Avtar is also the petitioner in another case relating to alleged violations of the forest law by the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Bhondsi, which is also built on Aravalli land.

Taking note of the forest department’s notice and claims made in Avtar’s petition, the NGT, on November 14, ordered principal chief conservator of forests, Haryana, to submit both factual and action taken reports in the matter. “In the meanwhile, no tree may be cut without following the due process of law,” states the order. The NGT order also observes, “The area is a wildlife corridor. Felling of trees will be illegal and adversely impact air quality.” The area environmentalists have pointed out is a sensitive leopard corridor.

However, multiple spot visits by Hindustan Times team over the past weekend, and on Monday morning, revealed that earth-moving work, clearing and burning of trees in the area continues.

CISF spokesperson Hemendra Singh said, “We have acquired the land by following all regulations and with sanction of the state government. A meeting is scheduled with the Haryana PCCF to resolve this matter.” Singh, however, did not address the issuer of ongoing work at the site.

According to official documents, the Mandawar gram panchayat has sold at least 260 acres of forested Aravalli land to the CISF for setting up a paramilitary camp. A copy of the registry papers, dated September 22, with details of the transaction are with HT. They reveal that the land was sold at a cost of over ₹104 crore, following a resolution passed by the panchayat on September 9.

On Monday, district forest officer Subash Yadav said, “We will begin work on preparing a report for the NGT soon. We will inspect the site to ensure that the CISF is complying with our notice and with the directions of the NGT.”