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Restriction on construction in forest areas

Taking a serious note on the issue of non-forest activity or construction in forest areas, particularly McLeodganj and Rivalsar (Mandi), the National Green Tribunal (NGT) restrained any person from carrying any non-forest activity or construction in the forest areas of the two towns.

While holding a circuit court sitting at Shimla, the Bench headed by Justice Swatantar Kumar restrained anyone from defacing large rocks in these areas for advertisement or any other purpose.

The NGT directed the Deputy Commissioner and SP of the respective districts to ensure that the defaced rocks were cleaned and restored to their original position.

The tribunal passed the order on a petition filed by Pawan Kumar alleging that Tibetan refugees had encroached upon thousands bighas of forest land in Kullu, Mandi, Kangra and other parts of the state and the state functionaries had allowed them to make the use of the forest for some other purpose without getting the prior permission from the Centre.

During the course of hearing, the tribunal observed, “As far as the report filed by the state is concerned, it is totally silent as to what steps have been taken for afforestation and what is the status of the Rivalsar lake”.

It is stated in the report filed by the state government that admittedly various unauthorised structures have been raised in the forest area and are being used for non-forest activity.

It was pointed out that some orders for eviction had been passed and the affected parties had taken up the matter in appeal to the Divisional Commissioner of the area concerned and the said appeals were pending, while interim reliefs had been granted.

However, the petitioner in his report alleged that there were not only encroachments and illegal constructions in the forest area but also big rocks had been defaced, trees had been removed and a large number of flags were put up which had an adverse impact on the ecology and environment of the area in question.

After perusing the same, the NGT comprising its chairman Justice Swatantar Kumar and four members, Justice UD Salvi, Dr DK Agrawal, Ranjan Chatterjee and Dr RC Trivedi, further directed the state to file an affidavit explaining what action had been taken against unauthorised construction raised in the forest area and to stop such activity and what steps were taken to restore the water body (lake) at Rivalsar to its original position.

The Tribune (17-09-2013)