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: