SC gives nod for several projects in Himachal; allows diversion of forest land

The projects – involving felling of 262 trees – is expected to benefit a population of 21,902 people

SC gives nod for several projects in Himachal; allows diversion of forest land

Photo for representation. ? iStock

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 14

The Supreme Court has allowed the Himachal Pradesh to divert 23,5726 hectare forest land for construction of 54 public projects, including 47 roads, in the hilly state.

The projects – involving felling of 262 trees – is expected to benefit a population of 21,902 people.

“The clearance of the aforementioned projects is subject to the State of Himachal Pradesh taking steps for identification of land for reforestation as per the earlier directions of this Court,” a Bench of Justices LN Rao said in its December 9 order.

Under an earlier verdict of the top court, permission of the Green Bench is needed for diversion of forest land for any other purpose.

It allowed the state government’s plea seeking direction for diversion of forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional forest Dwellers (Recognition Of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) for construction of the said projects.

The top court also directed the state to file an affidavit giving particulars of the land identified and the steps taken in accordance with law for the reafforestation. “The State of Himachal Pradesh is directed to file an affidavit giving particulars of the land identified for re-afforestation and the steps taken in accordance with law for the reafforestation,” it said.

The application for permission of diversion of forest land for public purpose had been examined by the Centrally Empowered committee (CEC) which had made recommendations for granting clearance, it noted.

It said CEC recommended that in respect of the projects falling under the FRA, permission could be granted to schools and other minor water bodies, rain water harvesting structures and dispensaries.

With regards to 47 roads, it also took into account senior advocate and Amicus Curiae ADN Rao’s submission that clearance could be granted for short distance roads connecting main roads.

The top court said although on March 11, 2019 it had stayed felling of trees even in cases where approval had been given by the DFOS but remarked that exercise of power by DFOS under the FRA was a point for consideration at a future date.

The Supreme Court had on February 15 given clearance to 138 projects, including several Hydro and one Hybrid Electric Projects, involving diversion of 614 hectare land in Himachal Pradesh that had been hanging fire for several years. It had also given the green signal for 289 other projects involving diversion of 122 hectare forest land subject to certain conditions.

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