The National Green Tribunal on Monday refused to stay the Haryana government’s sanction order to chop trees for construction of a real estate project in the eco-sensitive Aravalli hills. A bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim refrained from passing a status quo order after the counsel for Haryana government sought time to file reply on the plea filed by a former army man.
The green panel was hearing a plea filed by Lt Gen (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi, who had alleged that the state government granted permission to two companies for felling trees for developing a housing society in village Sarai Khawaja in Faridabad without obtaining forest clearance under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
The tribunal asked the Manohar Lal Khattar government, Bharti Land Limited and Ajay Enterprises to file their reply in the case by tomorrow and posted the matter for hearing on July 5. The counsel appearing for the state government said the petition was not maintainable and liable to be dismissed on the ground that it was based only on letters written by the forest department.
He sought time to file a detailed reply and said all queries would be solved in their written reply and urged the bench not to pass any interim order at this stage.
Senior advocate Pinaki Misra, appearing for Bharti Land Limited, said the nod given to the real estate firm clearly states that “permission to fell/transplant trees/shrubs/bushes is accorded in terms of stated conditions as prescribed by the government.” He said the real estate firm was ready to give an undertaking to comply with the conditions stipulated in the permission by the government and termed the plea as “forum shopping of worst kind.”
The former army man had raised the issue of direction to grant permission for felling of trees to Bharti Land Ltd in collaboration with Ajay Enterprises Pvt Ltd without obtaining forest clearance for the area which is recorded as “Gair Mumkin Pahar” (land unfit for cultivation) and forms part of Aravalli hills and considered as deemed forest.
According to the plea, the two firms had approached the divisional forest officer of Faridabad seeking permission for felling approximately 1,000 trees on the land acquired by them and measuring 52.2991 acres in Sarai Khawaja village of Faridabad.
It had contended that the Deputy Conservator of Forests of Faridabad wrote to the Conservator of Forests, South Circle, Gurgaon on September 30, 2015, that such a permission cannot be granted as it forms part of Aravallis which are ecologically sensitive. However, in another letter dated April 24, the Additional Chief Secretary Forest Department wrote to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests directing him to grant necessary approval for felling of mesquite trees to the Bharti Land Ltd.
“Direct an independent team of the Environment Ministry, Forest Survey of India and Haryana Forest Department to assess the number and size of tree species individuals and other bushes/shrubs actually present on the ground on the said lands recorded as ‘gair mumkin pahar’, extent of deforestation, and conduct a satellite baseline assessment,” the plea had said.
It had also sought direction to the Haryana government to declare all Aravalli hill including areas recorded ‘gair mumkin pahar’ as confirmed natural conservation zone, based on their Aravalli status alone, as shown in the Regional Plan 2021 and Haryana Sub Regional Plan 2021 and to prepare a village-wise list of Khasra numbers of such areas.