In an order on forest clearance for diversion of around 47 hectares of forest land for the construction of a section of National Highway 352W, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to find suitable land for compensatory afforestation closer to the place where trees are being cut.
An appeal was filed in the NGT against the forest clearance granted for the project on the Gurgaon-Pataudi-Rewari section of the highway on the grounds that the site where compensatory afforestation is being done is 300 km away from the site where trees are being felled, and that such plantation is no compensation.
Forest clearance was granted for 36.14 hectare in the Gurgaon division and 10.94 hectare in the Rewari division. Permission was granted for the felling of 8373 trees and 3948 plants in Gurgaon and 4049 trees and 4137 plants in Rewari.
In July, the NGT constituted a joint committee to conduct a site visit and submit a factual report. The joint committee had then submitted a report acknowledging that compensatory afforestation has been permitted 300 km away from the location where trees are being cut.
In its order issued on September 2, the NGT noted: “Forest clearance is subject to the requirement of afforestation within 10 km from the place from which trees are cut. It will be the responsibility of the PP (project proponent) to find suitable land, subject to the approval of the Forest Department for this purpose.”
The NGT order added: “If this mandatory condition is not followed up, the PP (project proponent) will not be allowed to proceed with the project. We have noted that a number of trees have already been cut but no further trees are allowed to be cut without compliance with this order. The PP may plan afforestation along the roadside in all its future projects at the planning stage itself, creating a strip with appropriate width of plantation to offset road dust pollution.”