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Tree felling nod for housing project in Aravallis wrong: Centre to NGT

10,000 trees over 52 acres in the Sarai Khawaja village of Faridabad had been chopped to free up space for a housing project

gurgaon Updated: Sep 05, 2017 23:37 IST
Hindustan Times
Aravalli hills,Ms Bharti Land,MoEF&CC
Tree felling is restricted in core forest areas of the Aravallis.(HT FILE PHOTO)

Ipsita Pati

htreporters@hindustantimes.com

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on Tuesday submitted a report of an enquiry before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), stating that the area where more than 10,000 trees were chopped in Sarai Khajwa village in Faridabad for a group housing society was ‘deemed forest’. It said the permission to cut trees was ‘incorrect’.

“The land in question is recorded in the Jamabandi as ‘Gair Mumkin Pahar’ and thus clearly a part of the Aravalli and thus would automatically be part of NCZ. This has been the view of the MoEF&CC before the NCRPB…..Thus letter granting felling permission….is legally incorrect,” stated the enquiry report.

The matter is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday.

The NGT had asked the ministry to submit an enquiry report on a petition filed by Lt. Col. (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi, who wants realty projects out of the ‘Aravalli gair mumkin pahar area’, considered as deemed forest.

The former additional chief secretary (forest) to the Haryana government, SK Gulati, had in June ordered clearing of land for the housing project. The enquiry report said the order “should have been avoided”.

Gulati’s order stated “….the said land of Ms Bharti Land is not a protected, reserved or unclassed forests; not notified under section 4 and/or 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, and no plantation under Aravalli Project has been undertaken by the Forest Department on the above said land. The area is not being treated as forest for the purpose of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Therefore, the land does not constitute forest component of NCZ. The area if comes under Section 4 of PLPA, it can get permission from the department for tree felling(sic).”

“This area does not constitute forest component of NCZ as per the NCRPB meeting dated 20.12.2016,” stated Gulati’s order.

But the ministry said this order was incorrect by the enquiry as “nothing such is recorded in the meeting of NCRPB.”

The ministry analysed the land status and maintained the area should be treated as forest as per the dictionary meaning.

“The definition covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(1) of the Forest Conservation Act,” said the ministry.

The area is also considered as ‘deemed forest’, which has been derived from the December 1996 Supreme Court (SC) Godavarman judgment that stated that in addition to notified forests, areas recorded as forests in government records will be treated as forests for the purpose of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA).

The MoEF report said the Lafarge judgment should have been followed in this case. The Lafarge judgment implies that in the event of a dispute regarding status of the land, a committee constituted by the principal chief conservator of forest with representatives of the ministry should examine and determine the status.

Read I Gurgaon: Filling of water pits in parched Aravalli forest underway

The petitioner highlighted that in the minutes of the meeting of the NCRPB Board held in June 2015, the state government had promised to maintain status quo in about 50,000 acres of forest land under the ‘status to be decided category’, till the forest definition issue was settled, which is also not followed in this case.

“The area comes under natural conservation zones where construction beyond 0.5% is not allowed,” said Vivek Kamboj, a green activist.

First Published: Sep 05, 2017 23:36 IST