Barmer, Sept. 29 -- For setting up solar power plants, private companies are felling protected khejri trees (Rajasthan's state tree) in Jaisalmer district, officials admit. But instead of taking action, authorities of civil administration and the forest department are blaming each other over the matter.
For setting up power plants these companies have acquired thousands of bighas land from tenants in Jaisalmer on lease agreements and now they are axing the khejri trees from there. Local people say they are opposing the the companies' move but their concerns are not heeded.
Recently taking serious note of such acts in Rajasthan's Jodhpur district, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed a private solar energy company, which has illegally chopped off 250 protected khejri trees for a proposed solar plant there to plant 10 times the number of trees cut by them.
"It is a fact that private companies are felling khejri trees on a large scale. After the issue came into my knowledge, I have sent teams to the areas and directed them to prepare a detailed report which will be sent to higher authorities for appropriate action," Virama Ram, sub-divisional officer at Fatehgarh, told HT.
""During the initial probe it was found out that private companies are felling the khejri trees without any legal permission which is violation of green norm and also a serious environmental issue." Ram said, adding the exact number of trees felled has not been ascertained.
Ram raised a question on the forest department's role saying that it is their duty to take action against such violation. The officer sai that though these companies are claiming that they are translocating the trees. But as against the large scale felling, only a few trees were translocated and they even died.
Contrary to district administration officials' allegations, Ashutosh Ojha, deputy forest conservator in Jaisalmer, said the land on which companies are axing tress is not forest land or government land, due to which they are not able to take action. "As the area did not fall under our jurisdiction due to which there is no any requirement for any kind of permission from their side. Despite this I have sought a detailed report and if any lacuna was there action would be taken accordingly," said Ojha.He also said companies' claims of translocation of trees are not seen at ground. He confirmed that it came to his knowledge that companies after felling the trees are burning them. The same has been confirmed by the district administration authorities.
HT has tried to get Jaisalmer district collector Ashish Gupta's response on it, but he did not respond to the phone call and messages despite repeated attempts.
Local environmentalists have now come forward and voiced concerns over the companies' action. They said that they have many times informed the authorities but no action has been taken.
Sumer Singh Bhati, a local environmentalist, told HT that for a long time they have been raising this issue but their concern remains unheard by the officials. "in the 17th century hundreds of people had sacrificed their lives to save the khejri tree, which is considered the Kalpavriksha of the desert, but presently the situation is reversed as authorities have turned their blind on it," Bhati said.
"Every year the government is spending a huge budget on plantations but it is meaningless as companies are openly uprooting the grown trees and burning them." Bhati said, "If the authorities did take any action, soon we will launch a massive protest." Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Hindustan Times. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at email@example.com