Bulldozers Raze Thousands Of Trees In Haryana, Activists Cry Foul

Environment activists have alleged that a private company has razed trees in Faridabad's Aravali area despite an order from the National Green Tribunal against such a move.

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The Haryana government allowed the firm to build a colony at Sarai Khwaja village in Aravali area.

New Delhi:  Seven bulldozers razed some 6,000 trees in the dead of night in Faridabad's Aravali area on Saturday. The machines started moving slowly, bringing the trees down one by one, just after dusk on Saturday and continued till Sunday. Environment activists alleged the night-long 'operation' was strategically timed as Monday being Eid holiday, no stay order from a court was possible.

What once used to be a green area along the Faridabad-Surajkund highway has become vulnerable to deforestation after the authorities decided the area was no longer to be considered a green zone. Environment experts say they are shocked that trees have been cut with knowledge of the Haryana government.

The Haryana government has "directed" junior officers to give permission for cutting trees despite a National Green Tribunal or NGT notice.

The land, which is now being flattened, belongs to Bharti Land.

The Haryana government on May 17, 2013, gave a licence to the firm to build a colony at Sarai Khwaja village in Aravali area of Faridabad district. Though the company applied for permission to cut trees, the divisional forest officer's office did not clear the application since the Haryana government was yet to decide on the status of land that falls under the Natural Conservation Zones category.

"We are not aware of any such NGT notice. In this case, the land belongs to a private entity. The company was awarded licences and sought a permission to clear the land of shrubs. It proposed to cover 33 per cent area as green belt," a person in the government with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Environment activists did not agree with the government's "hasty decision".

"The area falls under the category of gair mumkin pahaar (land unfit for cultivation) and is a deemed forest. Any decision permitting felling of trees in areas under question without identifying the forest would violate NGT orders," environment activist Chetan Aggarwal said. "Also, since the matter was under litigation, they should have waited for the final orders of the NGT," he said.

A spokesperson of the company in a statement denied the allegations. "As a responsible corporate, we are in compliance with all relevant regulations prescribed by law. Our residential project has been granted all necessary approvals, including License from the DGTCP. This is a joint development project and the subject land parcel has been under private ownership for the last 30 years," the spokesperson said.

"It is unfortunate that a systematic campaign is being run by select few with vested interests and ulterior motives against the authorities, which also aims at tarnishing our image as a law abiding company," the spokesperson said.
 

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