Chandigarh, Nov 5: The Punjab government has requested the central government to allow the state forest department to plant trees along railway lines and to manage all the existing plantations without payment of any revenue to the Railways as was the case in the past.
The request by the government has been made as the Railways has started objecting to the management of the areas along rail tracks by the state forest department. The objection came in the mid-1990s and thereafter the Railways did not allow the forest department to undertake plantations along tracks.
As per a state government notification railway land is protected forest property. The forest department had been planting and managing these areas until the objection came from the Railways.
Forest department officials when contacted here said that at certain places even the enumeration of the trees planted by the department was not allowed. Vacant land along rail lines was also given on lease to the private persons by the Railway authorities which was objected by the forest department in view of the enforcement of the Forest Conservation Act and the 1996 order of the Supreme Court.
Officials said that this matter was also taken up with the Railway authorities. The Railways is insisting on 50 per cent share of the gross revenue from the plantations raised along rail strips, the officials said while pointing out that this was objectionable.
According to the officials the principal aim of the National Forest Policy is the maintenance of environmental stability by undertaking plantations on all wastelands and revenue from these plantations is subordinate to this aim. Whatever little revenue is generated from plantations on Railway land is the byproduct of this eco restoration work.
The land falling on both sides of rail tracks and station yards is the property of Railways. The extent of this Railway land in Punjab is 8662 hectares.
Forest officials pointed out that the objective of planting Railway land is to increase area under tree cover envisaged in the National Forest Policy for environmental stability and ecological balance.