New Delhi: A plea alleging “nexus” between “timber mafia and officials” who were behind the recent fire incidents in Uttarakhand prompted the National Green Tribunal on Friday to restrain the state government from chopping of trees for construction of road in the state.
“We restrain Government of Uttarakhand and the contractors working from cutting and felling any trees from forest land for the purposes of melting the coal tar for laying metalled road in the State of Uttarakhand,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The order came after the state government failed to file its response on a plea seeking a CBI inquiry to ascertain the reason of forest fires that have raged the state having severe impact on the environment.
The tribunal noted that despite grant of opportunity no reply has been filed by Uttarakhand government and also the administration is unable to dispute the fact that the trees are being cut and burnt for melting the coal tar for laying road.
During the hearing, advocate Sugriva Dubey, appearing for the petitioner, referred to a RTI reply filed by Public Works Department which said that wood was being used for melting coal tar during construction and repair of roads in Nainintal and Almora districts of Uttarakhand.
The matter is now listed for next hearing on 3 August.
The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO Friends which had alleged that a “nexus of timber mafia, some greedy villagers and officials” was suspected to be behind the fire incidents which have caused severe degradation of the environment.
In its plea, the NGO had said that an inquiry should be ordered to be conducted by judicial authority to investigate the reason for the fire incidents and the state should be directed to ban the practice of burning of woods for road works.
It had alleged that Uttarakhand government has not taken any “effective step to control the fire” due to which almost the entire hilly area was affected.
The plea had claimed that more than “1300 incidents of forest blaze have taken plan in the present season and more than 2600 hectares of forest area has been ruined” in the state.
The tribunal had earlier on 4 May sought responses of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and governments of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh on a separate plea on the issue of forest fires raging in both the states.