Punjab defend deforestation: Information procured under the Right to Information Act has revealed that the Punjab forest and wildlife department is spending funds meant under compensatory afforestation and management and planning authority on litigation.The department of forests and wildlife preservation in Punjab has spent around Rs 86 lakh on senior advocates to defend deforestation in the state before the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court.
Amandeep Aggarwal, a member of NGO People for Transparency, it was stated that the department had spent Rs 86 lakh from CAMPA funds in the last one and a half year to contest cases against deforestation before the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court. This information was received in response to an RTI application I had filed on April 8, said Aggarwal. As the department initially did not provide the information, I had to file an appeal before the state information commission that issued orders on September 27 directing the department to provide me with the requisite information.The money came from the account of Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority, which arranges funds to plant trees in areas where deforestation takes place due to development projects.Meanwhile, officials of the forest department denied any delay in providing information through the RTI and said the department is using funds, according to its requirements. “We use CAMPA funds to plant trees at different places, but sometimes additional funds can be used in other works,” said principal chief conservator of forests Jatinder Sharma.Right to Information states that apart from fees and travel allowance of the officers, Rs 1 lakh has been paid to advocates per appearance per case from July 2016 to August 2017. The fee of four advocates has been paid from the account of CAMPA.Compensatory afforestation fund management and planning authority was constituted under the Supreme Court order on May 5, 2006. As per guidelines, the state CAMPA is to utilise the monies for undertaking compensatory afforestation, assisted natural regeneration, conservation and protection of forests, infrastructure development, wildlife conservation and protection and other related activities.
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