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Issue of illegal felling of trees echoes in HP Assembly

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Shimla, Apr 5 (UNI) The issue of illegal felling of trees in various parts of Himachal Pradesh echoed in Vidhan Sabha today during a discussion initiated by former Chief Minister Prem kumar Dhumal with BJP members, expressing serious concern over failure of the government to check the felling.

However, Forest Minister Ram Lal Thakur did not agree with the contention of BJP members that illegal forest felling had increased and maintained that even after fulfilling the obligations like grant of timber under timber distribution (TD) rights, developmental works and hydro-power projects, the green cover was intact.

He said about six lakh three had been felled for construction of hydro power project alone, while 35,000 to 40,000 trees were sacrificed every year to met the requirements of TD right holders.

The cases of illegal felling in the state varied between 2,433 and 3,252 during the period 1998-99 to 2005-06, which indicated that there was no such large scale felling of trees, he said.

Mr Thakur admitted that local considerations and developmental needs sometimes did weight on the minds of beneficiaries and minor violations of forest act were committed.

However, action was initiated against the persons involved whenever such causes were brought to notice, he claimed.

Referring to two different reports based on satellite imageries about forest cover in Himachal, Mr Thakur said while one report said that the forest cover had increased by 1856 sq km, another report based on different norms had said that the forest cover had shrunk.

However, the two reports were being reconciled, he said that 447 forest guards and 62 forest range officers were being appointed soon and all steps were being taken to preserve and protect the forest cover.

Initiating the discussion, Mr Dhumal alleged that illegal was going unchecked across the state due to casual approach of the forest department.

He made specific reference to cases at Dharamshala, Una, Rajgarh and Rohru sanctuary and alleged that forest conservation act was being violated with impunity.

Mr Dhumal said in one case a suspended divisional forest officer was reinstated, which did not send right signals.

UNI AS DP PA RAI2141

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