Times City Gurgaon
A blanket ban on mining in and around Gurgaon by the sc and the practice of planting five plants for every tree felled have help increase the green cover in the region in past decade
The forest department continues to claim that the overall green cover has increased in the past decade despite reports on felling of trees of road expansion and realty development, new residential sectors and other infrastructure projects. This can be attributed to the blanket ban on mining in Gurgaon and its neighboring districts by the Supreme Court in2008 which has helped restore the eco-sensitive zone in Aravali Hills to some extent in the past few years.Also, the practice of planting five plants for the felling of every tree has helped increase the green cover in the past decade.
Though the data on the overall increase was unavailable with the district forest officials, the overall forest cover in the district comprising three divisions-Sohna, Gurgaon and Hailey Mandi-is 8,898 hectares. There is said to be green cover when 10% of the total area is covered under dense foliage (woody trunk and branches).
This covers areas notified under sections 4/5 of the Punjab land preservation Act, 1900 (prohibiting change of land use), Section 38 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, reserved and protected forests, green belts along PWD notified roads, among others.
According to records, approximately 245 hectares of strip forest (forestation which is available in strips next to canals, PWD roads, railway tracks, bandhs and drains) has been diverted under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. In the Gurgaon forest division to date making the overall figure at 1,443 hectares. According to officials in the forest department under the SC order, all tree cover in the district is protected irrespective of ownership (by HUDA, MCG, village panchayat or private owners). Any felling of trees requires permission from the department and if violation is reported, challans can be issued. The plants ususlly used by the department are neem, sheshum, pilkhand, among other trees with shade.
On yearly targets for plantation, every district has to send an estimate to the headquarters to inform about the land available for plantation in each district. Based on this data, a yearly budget is worked out. The overall plantation planned for the new financial 2012-13 stands at 1.5 lakh trees.
However, the department takes into account a mortality rate of 18-20% annually for its plantation carried out. Nevertheless, a multiplicity of authority takes its toll even on the city’s green cover.
When asked why the department does not initiate action violators who encroach (by landscaping) on green belts along HUDA and MCG roads, the department said that violations can be proved only when there is a record that there was a tree cover which has been destroyed. “If they are encroaching by making private parks or by planting ornamental trees, it does not fall under our jurisdiction,” said Guraon range officer Devender Rao.
According to a non-government organization, Haryali if all the green belt in the city is rid of encroachment, the total number of trees will exceed two lakh. Also, a major issue of developers/colonizers not adhering to license conditions for developing green cover remains a matter of concern as no checks and balances are there to ensure by the license-issuing authority (Town and Country planning department) that the norms are followed by them, explained Rao.
Meanwhile, the forest department also has the authority to carry out a demolition drive upon finding any violations. However, despite having a few hundred complaints pending on violation on forest land, no prominent demolition drive has been carried out by the department recently. Also only two challans were issued to violators in 2010-11 with the number dropping to zero last year. As per records, the total number of challans issued since 2005 to date is 277, meaning an average of 55 annually, except for 2010 and 2011.