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Posted at: Sep 12, 2017, 1:38 AM; last updated: Sep 12, 2017, 1:38 AM (IST)

NGT summons records on felling of trees along canal

24,000 fully grown trees were uprooted to widen Bist-Doab stretch
NGT summons records on felling of trees along canal
The project kicked up a row last year after foresters and environmentalists cried foul over trees being uprooted from a land strip classified as a protected forest. Tribune file photo

Rajmeet Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 11

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has summoned the records on the controversial felling of 24,000 fully grown eucalyptus, ‘sheesham’ and ‘keekar’ trees under a project to widen the 800-km-long Bist-Doab canal during the SAD-BJP rule.

Taking up the petition filed by Delhi resident Nishant Kumar Alag, a Double Bench of the NGT has directed the state government to provide copies of the communication between the forest and irrigation departments.

The Rs 270-crore project kicked up a row last year after foresters and environmentalists cried foul over trees being uprooted from a land strip (on both sides of the canal), classified as a protected forest.

In his report to the Principal Chief Conservator Forests, then Conservator of Forests (Shivalik) Charchil Kumar had said: “Forestland attracts provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The Act makes it mandatory to seek nod for diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.”

He had further written: “Citing reports of the range officers of Nawanshahr, Kathgarh and Balachaur, it’s the legal status of land (protected forest) that has to be considered while taking a decision to divert it…”

The user agency (Irrigation Department in this case) had to apply for diversion to the Centre through the Forest Department.

As it was a key project of then SAD-BJP government, the Forest Department’s top brass claimed that no rules had been violated as the trees were not located on forestland.

In contrast, the Forest Department has sought permission from the Union Ministry for diversion of land to widen the Ropar-Phagwara section of the highway (running along the canal).

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Jitendra Sharma said: “The next date of hearing is September 13. We will seek more time from the NGT to file a reply.”

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