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Punjab

Posted at: Jan 12, 2019, 6:48 AM; last updated: Jan 12, 2019, 6:48 AM (IST)

SC dismisses appeal against NGT order on tree felling

Irrigation authorities were told to pay for plantation along Bist-Doab canal

Canal-widening project

  • The project to widen the Bist-Doab canal had kicked up a row after environmentalists had cried foul over trees being uprooted from a land strip (on both sides of the canal) classified as a protected forest.
  • As many as 24,777 trees were felled under the projectto widen the 800-km-long canal during the SAD-BJPrule in 2016.
SC dismisses appeal against NGT order on tree felling

Rajmeet Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 11

The illegal felling of 24,777 trees under a project to widen the 800-km-long Bist-Doab canal during the SAD-BJP rule in 2016 is back to haunt the state’s Forest Department.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer, today dismissed a civil appeal filed by state Department of Water Resources (erstwhile Irrigation Department) against a five-month-old order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that had directed it to pay for afforestation on an area equivalent to the forest area destructed through the illegal felling.

In the same order, the NGT had held officers of state Forest Department responsible for allowing the felling in violation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980.

Anita Shenoy, the counsel who appeared on behalf of Delhi resident Nishant Kumar Alag, the petitioner in the original case before the NGT, said while dismissing the civil appeal filed by the Irrigation Department — the agency that widened the irrigation canal, the apex court has given it the liberty to give its view point before inquiry officer to be deputed by the state to investigate the violation of the Act.

The inquiry officer, not below the rank of Additional Chief Secretary, has also been asked to fix responsibility of the officers responsible for the violation of the Act and take strict action. “This means the state government and the Forest Department would have to implement the orders of the National Green Tribunal,” said the counsel.

The tribunal’s double bench, comprising Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore and member Satyawan Singh Garbyal, in its orders (August 16, 2018) had stated that officers of the department had deliberately ignored the fact that the trees were demarked as part of a protected forest and there was willful violation of the Forest Conservation Act. The Act required the department to take permission from the Ministry of Environment.

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