A National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench headed by chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar, has asked the counsel appearing for the Haryana government to produce the revenue records of the land in Faridabad in the eco-sensitive Aravalli hills, where the government had sanctioned the construction of a real estate project by Bharti Land Limited. The NGT said it wanted to ascertain whether the site in question, was forest land or not.
“You produce before us the file of the forest department, where the concerned officer has said that this is not a forest land. Give us the complete revenue records of the land in question. Get the concerned officer before us,” the bench said.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the state government said the petition was not maintainable and liable to be dismissed, on the grounds that it was based only on letters written by the forest department.
The NGT had earlier issued notices to the Environment Ministry, the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana, the National Capital Region Planning Board, Ajay Enterprises Pvt Ltd, Bharti Land Limited and others, on 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 village Sarai Khawaja in Faridabad, without obtaining forest clearance under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
The former army officer had raised the issue of alleged grant of permission for the 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 the 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, Gurugram 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 of the 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. “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, extent of deforestation and conduct a satellite baseline assessment,” the plea had said.