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SC Puts Complete Ban on Felling of Trees in Forests of Himachal Pradesh

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra imposed the restraint on the authorities, which have been empowered under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to allow felling of trees, not exceeding 75 trees per hectare, for developing facilities such as roads, hospitals, schools etc.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:March 13, 2019, 8:47 AM IST
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SC Puts Complete Ban on Felling of Trees in Forests of Himachal Pradesh
Illustration of Supreme Court. (Network18 Creatives)
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has put a complete ban on cutting of trees in the forest areas of Himachal Pradesh for any developmental activity. It has also prohibited the state government from diverting the forest land for any non-forestry purposes, apart from nudging the authorities to make certain forests and their trees are not damaged any further.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra imposed the restraint on the authorities, which have been empowered under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to allow felling of trees, not exceeding 75 trees per hectare, for developing facilities such as roads, hospitals, schools etc.

"DFOs are restrained to exercise the power under Section 3(2) of FRA, 2006 till the next date," directed the bench, fixing April 1 as the next date of hearing. The top court also prohibited felling of trees for projects where approvals have already been given but tree are yet to be cut.

"In case of diversion where approvals have been given by the DFOs but felling of trees has not been done, no felling of trees shall take place till next date of hearing," it ordered.

It added there shall be no diversion of the forest lands allotted to a Protection Working Circle in any Working Plan under FRA and FCA (Forest Conservation Act) till the next date.

Adding to the list of restraints, the court said: "Let there be no diversion of forest for any non-forestry purpose processed under FCA regulations till the next date."

The bench expressed grave concerns over a report submitted in connection with 'silviculture felling' of trees in Himachal Pradesh for regenerating forests, and rued that forests in the state are being destroyed by the mass scale felling.

While asking the state government to submit its response to the report, the apex court directed it to ensure no further damage is caused to the forests. "Authorities to ensure that destruction of the valuable and precious forests of Himachal Pradesh does not take place in any manner whatsoever," said the bench.

In February last year, the court had allowed 'silviculture felling' of trees to a limited extent and under strict monitoring of a two-member committee, headed by V P Mohan, a retired IFS officer and former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests in Himachal Pradesh.

The court had modified its order of 1996 on an application by the state seeking its permission to carry out silviculture felling, including thinning and other cultural operations in accordance with the Working Plan approved by the Centre.
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