NGT Imposes Penalty Of Rs 1 Crore On Odisha Govt For Horticulture Drive In ‘Sal’ Forest

Cuttack: The Odisha government’s plantation drive of fruit-bearing trees in a ‘Sal’ forest in Jajpur district has drawn penalty from the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The NGT took up the matter following a complaint filed by Tapan Kumar Baral, a local resident, alleging that the government was implementing a horticulture project of planting guava trees by felling Sal trees in the forest area spread over 377.83 acre in Botalanda and Karagola under Sukinda tehsil. The NGT had formed a three-member committee and assigned it to submit a report on the status and category of the forest land.

After the committee submitted its report identifying the forest land as ‘Sal Jungle’, Justice B Amit Sthalekar (Judicial Member) and Justice Saibal Dasgupta (Expert Member) of the NGT’s East Zone bench in Kolkata on Monday imposed environmental compensation (EC) of Rs 1 crore on Odisha government and directed it to deposit the money with the divisional forest officer (DFO), Cuttack Forest Division within two months.

“Question is when the land in question is identified as ‘Sal Jungle’, how could it be utilised for guava plantation? Guava trees are not trees identified as ‘sal jungle’. Once the nature of the land is classified as ‘sal jungle’ or ‘patita jungle’ the said land could not have been utilised for any purposes other than forest purposes without seeking permission from the Central Government for use of the said forest land for non-forest purposes as provided under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” TNIE quoted the bench as stating.

The bench further directed the DFO, Cuttack, to utilise the compensation money in consultation with the District Magistrate, Jajpur for development of a bio-diversity park in the area by planting a mix of endemic trees including medicinal plants and a herbal garden. “The aim should be to improve the genetic and ecosystem diversity of the area in question,” the bench said.

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