A 52-acre plot of land in the Aravalli area of Faridabad is devoid of wood vegetation, after owner Bharti Land Ltd began to clear the area over a week ago to build luxury apartments. Despite a plea challenging the permission to fell trees, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Monday did not stay the Haryana government’s decision allowing the realtor of the land to clear the area of wood vegetation. There are over 6,000 root stock of Prosopis juliflora and 1,530 other Aravalli species on the land, a forest department assessment had noted.
The bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim was hearing a plea that contended that permission for felling of trees was granted to two companies without obtaining forest clearance for the area, which is recorded as ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (land unfit for cultivation), and forms part of the Aravalli hills and considered as deemed forest.
However, the bench refrained from passing a status quo order and asked the Haryana government, Bharti Land Ltd, the developer, and Ajay Enterprises, the realtor, to file their replies in the case by Tuesday. Last week, The Indian Express had visited the spot and seen JCB machines uproot small trees while daily wagers used sickles to hack at plants on the land. The NGT 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 the Sarai Khwaja village in Faridabad without obtaining forest clearance under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
While the counsel appearing for the Haryana 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 has sought time to file a detailed reply. Further, senior advocate Pinaki Misra, appearing for Bharti Land Ltd, said the permission granted to the real estate firm stated clearly that “permission to fell/transplant trees/shrubs/ bushes is accorded in terms of stated conditions as prescribed by the government”.
The plea contended that the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Faridabad, had written to the Conservator of Forests, South Circle, Gurgaon, on September 30, 2015, that such a permission cannot be granted as it forms part of the Aravallis which are ecologically sensitive. However, 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 Bharti Land Ltd.