SC allows HP to carry out silviculture felling of trees: The Supreme Court today allowed Himachal Pradesh government to permit “silviculture felling” of trees to a very limited extent and said this activity should be monitored very carefully to see whether it helps in regenerating forests. The apex court, which had in December 1996 directed the state that no felling of trees would be permitted in any forest, imposed certain conditions including that tree felling would be done directly by the forest department or by state forest corporation and not by any private agency. A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta passed the order on an application by the state seeking its permission to carry out silviculture felling, including thinning and other cultural operations in accordance with the Working Plan approved by the Centre.
“The Forest Department should ensure that videography of each beat where felling is to be done, is done separately at regular intervals to clearly indicate the condition and state of the forest before felling, during felling and after felling,” the bench said. “As far as ‘Khair’ trees are concerned, the state shall ensure that at least 25 per cent of mature ‘Khair’ trees are retained as mother trees and these should be marked and numbered as trees not to be felled, which should be clearly reflected in the videography. The trees to be felled can be marked by a separate colour. The number, size and girth of the trees should be clearly spelt out,” it said. The bench directed that as far as ‘Chil Pine’ and ‘Sal’ trees were concerned, the state should ensure that at least 40 mature trees were retained per hectare.“In addition to the conditions laid down in the Working Plan and those laid down by the CEC (central empowered committee), the State of Himachal Pradesh shall ensure that adequate funds are made available and re-afforestation is done either simultaneously or if it is not possible, immediately after felling is complete in each block of 20 hectares,” it said. It directed the state to ensure that these forest areas were kept free from grazing. The top court said that this entire programme of “experimental silviculture felling” shall be done under the supervision and guidance of a two-member committee, headed by V P Mohan, a retired IFS officer and former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests in Himachal Pradesh. PTI
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