Rs 1 lakh fine to destroy forest is a ‘paltry sum’

They were asked by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to plant 10 trees as penalty for one tree felled by them in Mangar Bani, a grove off the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road, but nothing, not even a sapling, has been planted by the penalised developers. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on March 17, also slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh on three real estate firms for allegedly trying to develop more than 400 acres of the forest land. Villagers and environment activists had welcomed the NGT move, saying it would prevent deforestation. The Mangar Bani and areas falling within ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (uncultivable) in Mangar village are parts of the Aravalli range which is covered with herbs, shrubs and trees. It is rich in flora and fauna and any development work will disturb the fragile ecosystem.

Though the fine of Rs 1 lakh on the developers seems to be a paltry sum, activists feel it is a significant move. “Whether it is Rs 1 lakh or ten times more, it doesn’t seem to be much from the developer’s perspective, but when we look at the circumstances, this fine matters,” said Chetan Aggarwal, environment analyst.

Sarvadaman Oberoi, also an environmentalist, said there had been rampant damage done to the forest. “Construction is going on in the area which comes under protected or reserved forest area notified under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA)-1900. Many developers tried to change the status of uncultivated land to agricultural land that comes under PLPA. The Act prohibits non-forestry activity in the area. The manner in which the permission is given for construction is unfair. The court will take a decision on the demolition of buildings constructed in the Mangar area.”

Vivek Kamboj, another activist, felt a fine was not enough. The developers had caused much harm to the environment and allowing of agriculture and construction of roads in the Aravalli areas of Mangar would open the unfragmented jungle to traffic and colonisation, he said.

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