Shimla: A sweeping ban on green felling of trees in the state notwithstanding, more than a score of mighty deodar trees have been felled in the Kufri-Mashobra forests, which the authorities claim are for road building purposes.
â€œIt was tragic to see such majestic cedars felled on the Mashobra-Bekelti road,â€ says Vishal, who drove past wondering how the activity had been permitted. â€œThe loggers at work claimed that the trees were being cleared to set up some project at the site,â€ he said.
Higher up in the hill where the forest clears along the ridge is The Retreat, summer residence of the President of India and close by is the summer cottage that Priyanka Vadra is constructing.
Inquiries with Theog forest division revealed that a road from Kaloh Nallah to Jahu village was being constructed in the area. â€œPermission to fell about 330 trees, which included saplings, had been granted and logging was being done by the state forest corporation,â€ said Sant Ram, the concerned forest ranger.
Vishal contested the claim saying that a motorable road to Jahu village already exists that has been extended for Cher village. Cher is an old pumping station, which supplies drinking water to the Shimla water supply scheme. â€œThe trees have been felled at a point where there is a steep fall in the middle of a forest and not a likely starting point for a new road,â€ said Vishal.
Close to the tree felling site is a stone quarry, where extraction operations are going on and has caused substantial damage to the forest lands around.
RS Chauhan, divisional manager forest corporation when contacted said that the forest department had handed over the lumbering task to them only after permission to fell the trees had been obtained from the central ministry of environment and forests (MOEF).
Tikender Panwar, president Himachal Kisan Sabha fresh from having led an agitation in Kinnaur about forest rights for the people says, â€œsuccessive governments have been working against the people. While they are being debarred from their forest rights, green felling is being permitted for influential people and industry.â€
Pointing out another case, he said, despite a blanket ban against any green felling imposed by the courts since 2007, permission to fell about 10,000 trees had been granted to a private company in Kinnaur for laying of a transmission line to evacuate power out from a hydropower plant under construction in Kinnaur.