SC Allows HP Govt. To Carry Out Monitored Silviculture Felling Of Trees [Read Order]
The Supreme Court, on Friday, allowed the Himachal Pradesh Government to carry out "silviculture felling" of trees and directed that the activity be closely monitored in order to ensure that it is, in fact, helping regeneration of forests.
"Felling of trees in India has been banned for more than two decades. We are of the view that on an experimental basis we may permit silviculture felling of trees to a very limited extent and such felling should be monitored very carefully to see whether such silviculture felling actually helps in the regeneration of forests or not," the Bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta observed.
In furtherance of its decision, the Court laid down several conditions for such felling and directed the Principal Chief Conservator to ensure that the same is done strictly in accordance with the orders of the Court.
The Apex Court had, in December, 1996, issued several directions and had prohibited felling of trees in any forest, unless the same is done directly by the forest department or by the State forest corporation. Despite this direction, the Court was informed in February, 2000 that the State of Himachal Pradesh had passed some orders lifting this ban.
It had then issued notice to the State, to which the State had submitted that it wanted to resume silviculture operations consisting of regeneration, felling and thinning of trees, in accordance with the Working Plan approved by the Centre. Thereafter, it was also pointed out that the Centre had suspended the Working Plan for various States, including the State of Himachal Pradesh.
The State had now approached the Apex Court, seeking modification of its ban. It had submitted that some amount of silviculture felling is necessary, because if no felling is done, regeneration of trees is not as fast as it should be. It had further contended that if such felling is not undertaken, once the mature trees die, there won't be enough young trees to replace it.
Accepting such contentions, the Court allowed the State's application and modified its earlier order. It, however, placed the following conditions on the activity:
- The felling should be done directly by the Forest Department or by the Himachal Pradesh State Forest Corporation and the work of felling should not be handed over or given on contract to any private agency;
- The Forest Department should ensure that videography of each beat where felling is to be done, is done separately at regular intervals to clearly indicate the condition and state of the forest before felling, during felling and after felling;
- As far as Khair trees are concerned, the State shall ensure that at least 25% of mature Khair trees are retained as mother trees and these should be marked and numbered as trees not to be felled, which should be clearly reflected in the videography. The trees to be felled can be marked by a separate color. The number, size and girth of the trees should be clearly spelt out;
- As far as Chil Pine and Sal trees are concerned, the State shall ensure that at least 40 mature trees are retained per hectare and the other conditions will be the same as applicable to Khair trees;
- In addition to the conditions laid down in the Working Plan and those laid down by the CEC, the State of Himachal Pradesh shall ensure that adequate funds are made available and re-afforestation is done either simultaneously or if it is not possible, immediately after felling is complete in each block of 20 hectares.
- It should also be ensured that these forest areas are kept free from grazing and are protected;
- The State should also ensure that sufficient number of healthy saplings are planted so that there is proper regeneration of the forest.
- This entire programme of experimental silviculture felling shall be done under the supervision and guidance of a two-Member Committee headed by Shri V.P. Mohan, IFS (Retd.), former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Himachal Pradesh. The second member of this Committee shall be nominated by the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, Solan, Himachal Pradesh. The second Member shall be a Professor of Silviculture.
- The Committee should submit its report to this Court every 6 months. The State of Himachal Pradesh shall provide all facilities to the committee including transport and boarding facilities. The remuneration to be paid to the members of the committee shall be determined when the committee submits its report."
Read the Order Here