Thursday, February 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SC overrules move on tree felling
From S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Feb 23 — Taking a serious note of the decision of the Himachal Pradesh Government to allow the cutting of green trees, the Supreme Court has ordered it not to go ahead with the implementation of any such decision and has also sought an explanation from the state government.

The order of the Supreme Court has generated feverish activity among the bureaucracy which held a series of meetings with the Chief Minister, Mr P. K. Dhumal, since yesterday to find someway to save the state government from further embarrassment on the issue.

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr S.K. Pande, was rushed to Delhi today reportedly to consult some senior lawyers and also the Environment Ministry before filing a reply in the court.

Sources said the court had directed the state government not to implement the controversial decision on green felling till further orders.

The decision of the state government has already drawn criticism from several environmental bodies and individuals. The Environment Ministry is also learnt to have sought an explanation from the state government recently and reportedly observed that green felling should not be allowed to raise finance.

The Standing Committee of Parliament on science and technology has also reportedly sought a detailed report from the state government.

Sources said the action of the Supreme Court had come in the wake of various newspaper reports.

The state government is likely to take the plea that it did not intend to lift the blanket ban on the felling of green trees and its decision was confined only to silviculture felling for scientific growth of forests, there was no question of allowing commercial felling.

A senior officer, who did not want to be identified told the TNS that the felling would be strictly according to the forest working plans which would be approved by the Centre. Of the 28 working areas, the plans for 19 have already been received.

He claimed that the decision of the state government to go in for silviculture felling was not in violation of the blanket ban, which the Supreme Court had ordered in 1995.

The Centre and the state governments have contradictory viewpoints over the implementation of the orders of the Supreme Court passed in January 1998. While the state government has taken the plea that the order of the Supreme Court to the states to prepare the forest working plans within two years and get these approved from the Centre was also applicable to Himachal Pradesh, the Environment Ministry claims that order of the court dated December 12, 1996, was specific to Himachal and it is presumed that it has not been modified till now.

The decision to lift the ban on green fellings was taken by the state Cabinet in December. The ban was imposed 16 years ago.

Apprehensions had been expressed that though the state government might stick only to silviculture felling, yet this would revive the timber mafia.

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