Chandigarh, September 6: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF) to monitor deforestation being done for development projects in Punjab.

The orders came following a petition filed by an environmentalist, Amandeep Aggarwal, who alleged mindless cutting of trees and challenged the compensatory afforestation being done by the Forest Department.

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In his petition, Aggarwal said in 2001, Punjab was ranked 11th in the country in terms of the forest cover, which was 2,432 sq km. The state got a loan of Rs 630 crore from a Japanese bank for improving the depleting green cover. The loan had to be repaid in 20 to 30 years against interest, varying between 0.75 per cent and 1.8 per cent, per annum.

An amount of around Rs 470 crore of loan was spent on planting about 96,000 trees along the Zirakpur-Bathinda stretch of the National Highway-64. When the trees matured, the state gave an order to cut the trees in 2012.

He said as per official portal of Niti Aayog, Punjab now figures on the bottom of the list with just 3.52 per cent of forest cover. Niti Ayog portal shows that Punjab has a meager 1,772 sq km of forest and tree cover whereas in 2001, the forest cover was 2,432sq km. “If the claim of compensatory afforestation by the state is to be believed, the forest cover should have gone up,” the petitioner has pointed out.

Disposing of the petition, a special bench of the NGT headed by Chairman Justice Adarsh Kumar Goyal has instructed the North regional office of the MOEF to monitor the issue of deforestation and afforestation and submit the report to the Tribunal by January 3.

Source Tribune India

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