HW team visited the controversial site at Tara Devi forest in Shimla where 477 green trees were axed and captured some visual for its readers. We were startled as well as felt sorry for Shimla at the sight of what we observed. Do watch the complete video
SHIMLA-On September 12 last year, Amrik Singh Nagpal, a resident of Chandigarh, purchased 38.5 bighas of private land, owned by Parminder Kaur, in Mauza Jungle Taradevi, Shimla for 16 crore. The revenue department undertook demarcation at the site on November 12, 2014 and two days later, on 14 Nov, the forest beat guard of the area filed an FIR reporting illegal felling of trees in the area, followed by no investigation or any action.
On November 21, a newspaper reported illegal felling of 477 green trees in the same area after which it was followed by all the media, the issue reached the Indian Green Tribunal, and politicians begin their game over the issue.
If you noticed, then revenue department visited the area for demarcation and knew beforehand about the tree massacre. Similarly, the FIR lodged by forest guard had reported it to Shimla police already a week before it was raised in media. Then, how come both departments did not speak of it?
Including some full grown, almost a century old devdar trees, about 500 trees were axed, obviously for some commercial project, a luxury resort most probably. Govt. puts the number of felled trees at 477, but that doesn’t include small trees, which they claimed to be only bushes.
When caught in the web, five officials including forest guard and Block Forest Officer were suspended within a couple of days. Conservator of Shimla, Sanjay Sood was also transferred to the headquarters.
Afterwards, suo moto cognizance of this illicit felling was taken by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). A notice was issued to the state chief secretary and the principal secretary (forest) to submit their reply before Jan 8, 2015.
On November 21, an FIR was registered under Sections 30, 33 of the Indian Forest Act and 447 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Before police could arrest the accused businessman Amreek Singh Nagapal, he went underground seeking an anticipatory bail from the court. However, he surrendered before Shimla Police after the court denied him the bail.
Tara Devi illegal tree felling Video
When the HP Assembly Winter Session begin, BJP walked out many times demanding debate over tree massacre going on in Himachal, especially in the forest minister’s home district Chamba. BJP also demanded resignation of Thakur Singh Bharmauri alleging his involvement with forest mafia, with which we agree. It seems that Himachal’s forest mafia and HP Govt. enjoy fruits of grooming a healthy relation for the benefit of both.
A couple of days ago, National Green Tribunal directed the owner of the land Parminder Kaur to deposit Rs 20 lakh with Forest department as initial payment for re-forestation and as damages on account of restoration of environment and ecology.
State put the value of 477 trees at Rs 33 lakh approximately, and nearly 87.5 cubic meter wood have been recovered so far while hunt for rest of it is on.
We visited the area one month after it was reported and highlighted by media, but still, we found axed tree were covered with mud, stones, and leaves.
Huge, deep pits were dug at various points to burn the waste of axed trees.
Remains of burned leaves, branches verified it.
The view from the site is worth millions, and that’s what lured everyone from land owner, the buyer to forest minister. One can get wide angle view of Shimla city from here.
We noticed deep cuts on many nearby trees that hint at the possibility that more trees were to be axed if it had not been highlighted by media.
A motorable road was spotted approaching the controversial site, appearing amidst dense forest cover of Tara Devi. Apparently, it was developed to facilitate the transportation of axed trees.
The answer isn’t any surprise. Corruption has entered into the roots of Indian society, and most corrupted results are found at Govt. departments, They make most of this opportunity as they control the fate of things that otherwise belongs and affects public in general like our precious forest covers.
Himachal’s forest minister, Thakur Singh Bharmauri, has criticized it like his hands are completely clean in it. He claims no prior knowledge regarding the record tree massacre in Ahlami beat in his home district Chamba, in which 895 green devdar trees were felled illegally. Congratulations Mr. Bharmauri. It’s the biggest tree felling scam ever reported in Himachal. After this report, 12 people, five officials of Forest Corporation, three officials of Forest Department along with four others were arrested, and are on three days’ remand.
According to the reports, this illegal felling in Chamba had started in 2013, but came into light in November 2014 only.
A recent report had reported illegal tree felling in Nalagarh where over 200 trees were axed. Similarly, in January 2015, news reported illegal felling of 45 trees in Theog region of Shimla. The reports from Shillai also add to it.
It’s happening all over Himachal, but only some of them are known to us. Himachal state government was rebuked by the National Green Tribunal in January 2015 for non-compliance of its order to take steps to protect the ecology of Rohtang. Considering the issue of climate change as critical one, NGT said:
“It is unfortunate that the state has not shown its requisite interest in protecting one of its most beautiful but ecologically more sensitive area for which it’s obliged to discharge its constitutional and statutory duty. It is in the interest of the state to protect this eco-sensitive area not only in the environmental interest, but even in the interest of state revenue. If the glacier is permitted to melt at the rate at which it is stated to be melting for a year probably after few years, there will be no glacier and no tourism and hence no revenue.”
Due to forest clearance for road building boom, Himachal is among three states where massive deforestation was observed. The other two are Uttarakhand and J & K in the past decade. Rising population, industrialization, and greed of politicians, all of them are burdening natural resources. In 2013, ministry had cleared 17 projects requiring the diversion of 46.95 hectares of forests in Himachal. That was done within a period of five to six months. With such pace of forest clearance, the future sounds gloomy for ecological balance.
The Town and Country Planning Department announced that more than 240 hectares falling in Parav forest near Tara Devi and Gadyog in Totu in Shimla has been reported, and therefore these two areas will be declared as the green zones, so that the thick green cover could protected.
For years, we have been listening to these announcements about green zone, no-construction zone, and protection of ecological balance. All 17 no-construction green belts in town are green in announcements and Govt.’s official documents. Last year, too, NGT had directed the state government to halt and impose ban on construction in 2000 green belts around the town.
Read an old article:-Save Trees: 24 private luxury apartments on the grave of hundreds of trees
Corruption and need for more habitable land due to expanding human civilization aren’t the only reason. As individual, too, our insensitivity is born out of our lack of awareness regarding lethal environmental consequences. These consequences will affect each and everyone, irrespective of any class, religion, status or anything.
The tourist industry will regret not caring for the greenery. The pattern of rain and snowfall is already hit due to gradual human interference with ecological balance. It’s going to be worse in future. All efforts regarding the preservation of forest can only temporarily halt or delay the process of deforestation. We can just buy more time, but we can’t prevent human race sucking out all natural resources to fulfill the needs of the modern world.
An Appeal to Readers !
If you notice such activity as felling of green trees around you or other issues critical to the ecology of Himachal like vehicles spitting out smoke, click a photograph or record a video and send it on editor[at]himachalwatcher[dot]com or you can post it directly into HW’s Your News section for instant publishing. You can choose to be anonymous while posting anything if you aren’t comfortable to disclose your identity. Not only emission, but there are a lot of other public grievances which need attention from us.
ADB funds Rs. 1900 crore tourism project for Himachal
The design of the project is based on the detailed baseline data, a study conducted of 324 sites in 12 districts of the state, suggestions obtained from about 90,000 tourists.
Shimla: The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India has approved a tourism infrastructure development project worth about Rs. 1900 crores to be funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for development of tourism infrastructure in the urban and rural areas of Himachal Pradesh.
With the help of this ADB funded project, the state would develop tourism in rural, unexplored areas and improve the infrastructure of the towns and also generate employment for the local youths and showcase Himachal as the best natural tourist destination state, the State Government informed.
Additional Chief Secretary, Tourism Ram Subhag Singh further informed the project would be completed in eight years.
The project is supposed to focus on diversification of tourism to new and rural areas by developing tourism infrastructure, create livelihood and employment opportunities through rural, adventure and ecotourism.
The project also mentions the application of innovative models like incentive-based mechanisms for community-based tourism activities, augmentation of services like water supply, sewerage, solid waste, skill development related to the tourism sector, advertising and marketing etc.
He claimed it would be one of the finest examples of sustainable tourism in the Himalayan States.
The project will have both hard and soft components and will include beautification of towns, development of unexplored areas, conservation and restoration of heritage buildings, infrastructure development in adventure, eco, rural tourism with an emphasis on community participation and employment generation.
The design of the project is based on the detailed baseline data, a study conducted of 324 sites in 12 districts of the state and suggestions obtained from about 90,000 tourists and designed in line with sustainable tourism guideline for the Himalayan States.
The Government said the Department of Economic Affairs was satisfied with the performance and progress of the State on the ongoing ADB funded project of about Rs.600 crores.
Future of India is in tourism, says Alphons at conference on Himachal’s eco-tourism potential
Shimla: The Union Minister of State for Tourism Minister K. J. Alphons on Tuesday said the future of India is in tourism as the global tourism witnessed a growth of 7 per cent, while tourism in India grew by 15.6 per cent.
He was speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the two days International Conference on ‘Eco-Tourism Potential in Himachal Pradesh’ organized by the State Forest Department and Eco-Tourism Society of Himachal Pradesh at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali in Kullu district.
It is true that the potential of tourism in Himachal is promising. Sadly, the previous government of the both ruling and opposition parties did not do much to encourage eco-tourism or environmental conservation. The efforts were limited to announcements and proposals.
Some of the appreciable steps in this regard, which are very rare, were a ban on plastic bags and thermocol cups and plates.
All major international tourism destinations of the State have witnessed an unplanned growth of concrete and rise in the daily generation of solid waste. However, except for Shimla town, none of the other districts has a solid waste treatment plant. The Municipal Councils of these towns are still using landfills.
It was only recently in 2018 that the State Government made an announcement for the establishment of waste management plants in various districts. However, the government did not provide any deadline for the completion.
New Announcements of HP Govt
On Tuesday, the Himachal Pradesh Government has announced the development of 113 sites boost the eco-tourism. Out the total, five sites would be developed in a Public Private Partnership mode. Other 16 sites would be developed by the State Forest Department and 47 by the HP the State Forest Corporation. These agencies would are supposed to start eco-tourism activities at these sites.
It was announced that 25 new destinations would be developed by constructing log huts for tourists.
Three eco-tourism hubs would be developed during the current financial year and 10 places would be developed as adventure tourism spot of Himachal in collaboration with Eco-Tourism Society, Tourism Department and Mountaineering Institute, Manali.
Further, the government claimed that 31 eco-tourism circuits has been prepared and would be sent for approval to the Centre.
Nature parks and herbal gardens are being developed in the State and as many as 50 Forest Rest Houses have started eco-tourism activities in the State. It said efforts would be made to link eco-tourism with the rural life, culture and traditions.
The government expects it would not only give a boost to the unexplored and virgin tourist destinations of the State but also help in boosting economic activities in the rural areas of the State.
The government said it would spend Rs 50 crore on a new scheme ‘Nayae Rahaien Nayae Manzilain’, under which new tourist destinations would be developed in the State.
The government has banned the use of thermocol cup plates in the State from June 5 on the occasion of World Environment Day. These steps would go a long way in ensuring a clean environment of the State.
The eco-tourism could have several components such as trekking, mountain biking, river rafting, skiing, heli-skiing, camping, rock climbing, bird watching etc.
The government said the exploration of new destinations would not only provide much-needed solace to the tourists visiting these pristine new places in the State but also lessen the burden on already crowded tourist destinations of the State.
The Government would also associate private players to invest in eco-tourism projects.
The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur filled a membership form of Eco Club on the occasion. Several MoUs for eco-tourism projects were signed on the occasion between different organizations and companies.
The left bank Manali road would be taken up through World Bank of CRF funding for its timely completion.
The announcements do sound appreciable, but in reality, the government is still struggling even to provide basic facilities to the public. The tourism industry in Shimla had taken a hit due to the water-scarcity caused by mismanagement and preparedness of the government.
Himachal seeks Rs. 300 crore from Centre to promote religious tourism circuit and eco-adventure tourism
Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Government has urged the Union Minister for Tourism, K.J. Alphons to sanction three schemes worth Rs. 300 crore to promote religious tourism circuit and eco-adventure tourism in the state.
The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, during a meeting in New Delhi, apprised the Minister that Himachal was also a major centre of religious tourism and religious tourism circuits will be developed here to provide devotees more facilities.
The Chief Minister also invited Union Minister to Himachal and said that he himself will take him to the tourist destinations of the State. K.J. Alphons whole-heartedly accepted the invitation.
Chief Minister also urged the Centre to provide funds generously for widespread publicity of tourism sites in the state.
The Union Minister of State for Tourism assured the Chief Minister that the Union Government will extend all possible support to this hill state for exploitation and expansion of its tourism potential.
The Chief Minister said that the focus should be on tourism in the state, which was not given before. However, now the state government is giving special emphasis to strengthening infrastructure in virgin natural places, he said.
Himachal has immense potential for adventure tourism and adventure sports like mountaineering, biking, river rafting, and paragliding and the state is considered as a paradise for these adventure sports.
However, it is true that the governments have done very little to polish and maintain the tourism sector.
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