Green tribunal asks Haryana to avoid felling standing trees

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CHANDIGARH: Haryana government’s move to dispose of fallen, dry and standing trees through private contractors has come under National Green Tribunal’s scanner as the panel in its interim order has asked to avoid felling of standing trees in forest areas of Sirsa and Palwal districts.

In its order on Thursday, the panel said the tender process can go on but “the contract for felling of standing trees from area being subject matter of the present petition shall be avoided”. The state forest department on June 14 had permitted open auction for disposal of dry, fallen and standing trees in Sirsa district “to save these from fire and considering the continuous loss of revenue to the government”. The department has given contract to dispose of 5,453 trees, mainly Shisham (fallen and dry), in Sirsa district and 3,250 eucalyptus trees in Palwal district. Sources said the green trees would be disposed of to widen the road in Palwal district.

However, the tribunal observed, “The tender notice is in apparent conflict with the orders and the policy of the central and state governments.” Gurgaon-based NGO Haryali Welfare Society had recently approached the tribunal against the state government’s move.

The tribunal fixed the next hearing on November 13. In the petition, the NGO had alleged that in violation of SC orders, the forest department was holding a direct open auction of trees by granting approval to private contractors to enter in the forest area in spite of having two specialized tree harvesting wings in the department – production circle of the forest department and Haryana Forest Development Corporation.

Quoting provisions of the national forest policy, the petitioner said cutting and removal of forest trees should not be done by private contractors. When contacted, principal chief conservator of forests C R Jotriwal refused to comment on the matter saying that the case was pending before the tribunal. However, a senior officer of the department claimed that the state would gain Rs 100 crore more annually by giving the work to private contractors. “Earlier, the department used to earn just Rs 45 crore annually but now it would be able to earn Rs 145 crore annually,” he claimed. “In the present case, we would get Rs 5.5 crore more by following the new practice of auction in comparison to the old practice, where the department itself disposed of the trees,” said the officer. “We are not violating any rule as we have already procured required approval from the central government,” he added.


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