January 23, 2021 6:05 pm

Chopping Down of Trees: Forest Officer Sonmarg Attached

  Representational Photo

Sonmarg: A day after Kashmir Observer reported that the agency constructing Zojila Tunnel had chopped down over 300 ‘trees’ without seeking permission from the Forest Department, the government attached Forest Officer Sonmarg to DFO’s office Ganderbal for not informing the higher-ups on time.

eports on Friday said that Forest Officer Sonmarg, Abdul Gani was attached to the office of Divisional Forest Officer Ganderbal while additional charge was given to Forest Officer Gund, Habibullah.

As reported earlier Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd which is responsible for the construction of 14.5 kilometer Zojila Tunnel has chopped off 338 trees without seeking necessary permission from the Forest Department.

Sources said that attachment order was issued after the Department felt that the said officer resorted to dilly dally tactics in sending the report to higher-ups.

Sources added that DFO Ganderbal Mir Owais along with Deputy Director Forest Protection Forces visited Nilgrath and Baltal areas to assess the situation. The DFO has already constituted a committee comprising Range Officer Sindh Forest Range and Assistant Director Forest Protection Force to ascertain the facts. They have been asked to submit the report within 3 days.

On Thursday, DFO Ganderbal, Mir Owais had said that he has constituted a committee to ascertain facts. “If some violation has taken place, we will charge a bill from the Agency. I don’t think they have cut trees. What I have learnt is that the Agency has cut some saplings,” Mir Owais had said, according to the news agency KNT.

The attached Forest Officer Sonmarg Abdul Gani in his report has already sought action against the Agency under law. He admitted that Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited has cut down 338 trees.

Pertinently, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd got the contract to construct the strategic multi crore Zojila Tunnel after it emerged as the lowest bidder for the project.

Zojila tunnel aims to provide all-year connectivity between Kashmir and Ladakh region. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 4,509 crore.

Will move to NGT if Govt fails to act: RTI Movement 

Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement has demanded  that the culprits particularly the construction company and local Govt agencies which have paved way for cutting down of 340 green trees near Zojila Tunnel in Sonmarg area be taken to task as the said act is an open violation of forest and environmental  laws.

In a statement Chairman RTI Movement Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat has said that stern action should be taken against the company and Government officials who are involved in this criminal act. He said that RTI Movement will move to National Green Tribunal (NGT) of Govt fails to act against the culprits

“By punishing a lower rung officer of the forest department and attaching him with DFO office Ganderbal is only a mockery. An independent probe should be held in this whole issue and real culprits should be identified. In past of private construction company axed thousands of forest trees in Pir Panjal forests of Shopian , Poonch and Budgam during laying of Sama Amargad transmission line but till date no probe was constituted how many forest trees were actually allowed to be axed and how much amount was realized as compensation from the company “ said Dr Raja Muzaffar

He further said that if the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) hasn’t given permission to axing 340 trees near Zojila tunnel site , how did the company go ahead with the mass slaughter of so many trees ?

“We may be forced to file a complaint before NGT if Govt doesn’t act against the culprits ” read the statement. (With inputs from KNT)

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