Official booked for damaging forest in Himachal

June 9th, 2008 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, June 9 (IANS) An engineer of the public works department (PWD) has been booked for felling 71 trees allegedly without permission during the construction of a road in Himachal Pradesh. The hill state’s forest department has filed a first information report (FIR) against the engineer under sections 32 and 33 of the Indian Forest Act accusing him of felling 71 trees and damaging forest cover in Mandi district without permission.

The PWD is constructing a road under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna from Hanogi to Bahadi village at a cost of Rs.35 million.

Kunal Satyarthi, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Mandi, told IANS Monday that at least 71 trees were axed without the permission of the environment and forests ministry and adjoining forest land was also damaged during the road construction.

“Despite our repeated notices to the PWD about the violation of the law, the erring officials turned a blind eye. We finally registered a case against an assistant engineer. As the investigation is on, cases against more officials cannot be ruled out,” he said.

The PWD had got permission from the central government to use 4.33 hectares of forest land for constructing the road. The project was approved this year with permission to axe 290 trees.

However, PWD started the road construction outside the permitted area and felled 71 trees, says Satyarthi.

Mahesh Chander Sharma, a Mandi-based environmentalist, who visited the spot, said the executing agency changed the alignment of the road, which resulted in axing of trees without the government approval.

He said the PWD dumped debris in water channels and forest areas haphazardly. Even the trees were axed unscientifically.

However, PWD executive engineer V.K. Awasthi said the trees were axed after permission from the central conservator of forests, Chandigarh.

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