Residents, activists question permission to cut trees in Aravallis
Environmentalists and local activists have questioned the permission granted for cutting trees on a portion of the 52-acre Aravalli forest land falling in Faridabad. The land in question has been earmarked for a group housing project.
In April this year, the Haryana forest department head office had directed the local divisional forest officer (DFO) to grant permission to cut trees for a group housing project at Sarai Khwaja village of Faridabad district. The DFO had earlier objected to it on the basis that the land is under the “yet to be decided” category of a natural conservation zone (NCZ).
Activists have alleged that the government is twisting its own laws to facilitate the real estate project. On Friday, the forest department had passed another order stating that permission would not be required to clear up mesquite (videshi babool) and kikar trees in the Aravallis. The department, however, revoked the order after facing a lot of criticism.
“The order issued on Friday was aimed to facilitate the approval sought for the residential group housing project in Faridabad,” said SS Oberai, environmentalist.
A letter issued in April by former additional chief secretary (forest) of Haryana to the principal chief conservator of forest states that the “land of Ms Bharti Land is not a protected, reserved or unclassed forests” and is not notified under section 4 and/or 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900.
“Since this area does not constitute forest component of the NCZ as per the decision taken by the NCR Planning Board on 20.12.2016, you are directed to accord necessary approval for felling of mesquite trees to the applicant as per the provisions of the PLPA, 1900, with intimation to the government,” the letter said.
Sunil Gulati, additional chief secretary to government of Haryana, wildlife and forest department, said, “If the area comes under Section 4 of the PLPA, it can get permission from the department for tree felling.”
“Last year, we had protested against clearing of land in the area and also opposed tree felling in the Aravallis. Once the government gives a nod for one project, it will have to clear other real estate projects in the forest area too,” said Jiten Bhadana, a resident of the area.
“The government directs permission to fell mesquite trees in “status yet to be decided” category, thus denying the possibility of the area being declared a deemed forest at all,” said Chetan Aggarwal, environment analyst.
Official sources said the Haryana government has granted licence for construction and development of a group housing project at the land and environmental clearance for the said land has been granted and building plans sanctioned.
“We have received all approvals regarding our project. The application for the felling of mesquite bushes has been applied for as per the requirement, and we are awaiting approval for the same,” said a spokesperson of Bharti Realty, which is building the housing project.