The Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last week restraining the state from axing trees.A Division Bench of Justices SS Saron and Gurmit Ram also issued notice of motion to the Union of India and other respondents. The case placed in the category of environment and pollution will now come up for further hearing on July 19.The orders were passed on a petition filed by Sewa Singh and others on issues surrounding the rehabilitation of the Bist Doab Canal meandering through Jalandhar and Nawanshahr.The development is significant as apprehensions were being expressed that the non-completion of the project by June 30 would lead to widespread floods and no farming activity on 2.5 lakh acres in Doaba this season.The state has all along been asserting that the canal had already been demolished at many places and floods across the dismantled portions would destroy life and property, if the project remained incomplete before the monsoons.Acting on two petitions alleging indiscriminate felling of trees in Punjab for widening roads and those standing along the canal banks, the NGT on May 19 had ordered against the axing of even a single tree without its permission.Imposing the ban, it cited a report published in these columns earlier this month in this regard. The tribunal, headed by Justice Swatantar Kumar, observed that no effort whatsoever was made to transplant trees or to compensate for the loss to the green cover, particularly in case of Nawanshahr and Jalandhar districts.
“We hereby restrain the State of Punjab, any project proponent, various authorities and government departments from felling and cutting any tree in the state without the specific permission of the tribunal,” the order reads.
The NGT had also ordered that the state government should place before it all facts regarding afforestation in the state in the past five years. “The information should be provided year-wise, district-wise and scheme-wise and the state must tell how many trees have been felled,” the order said.