Banyan tree chopped off: After complaints to UP officials, Ghaziabad forest department initiate inquiry

Following complaints from environmentalists over chopping the branches of a banyan tree on Hapur Road in Ghaziabad, the divisional forest officer has initiated an inquiry into the incident.

The district forest officials had earlier given permission to translocate the tree to the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) campus near Govindpuram. However, the NDRF confirmed that they had not given permission to translocate the tree to their campus.

Divisional forest officer (DFO) Diksha Bhandari on Thursday said that she is conducting an inquiry and have sought explanation from her subordinate officers. Earlier, Bhandari had said that she had given permission to translocate the tree in public interest citing obstructing traffic.

“I am conducting an inquiry and will be submitting the report to chief conservator of forest (Meerut). I have sought an explanation from the forest ranger who had initially given to me in writing that the NDRF had given verbal permission for translocation. But their officials got transferred in between,” she said.

But now the tree will not be translocated.

“We plan to strengthen the base of the tree and if the public does not want translocation, we will allow it to grow at the same place. Even if NDRF had not given permission in writing we have enough forest areas available with us and could have translocated it elsewhere. So we are now maintaining status quo,” she said.

Dr Rajiv Kumar Garg, UP’s principal chief conservator of forest, said he will get the incident inquired in detail and would seek more details whether the procedures were followed or not.

“Translocation is always a costly affair and it requires a lot of expertise. There are chances that the tree which is translocated may not survive. It seems there have been some issues for which I will seek details from officials and get the entire incident inquired in detail,” Garg said.

Environmentalists have alleged that there were several “procedural lapses” during the incident and have also demanded action.

“The permission on November 7 was given for translocation. When there was no permission from the NDRF then why the chopping activity was initiated and what was the motive behind it? If the subordinate officials had given in writing about any such permission (from NDRF) to the DFO it amounts to concealment of facts,” said Akash Vashishtha, city-based environmentalist and a lawyer.

“Instead, the DFO should also have demanded a copy of written permission by the NDRF from her officers. We have raised the issue with the PCCF, UP and will raise complaints to the highest level with the Ministry of Forest. There seem to be series of irregularities and action should follow. The inquiry by the DFO will be incomplete if the lapses and motive are not brought to fore,” he added.

Ruchin Mehra, another environmentalist, said that he had raised two objections on the Integrated Grievance Redressal System of the UP government on September 5 and September 26 against the chopping of the tree and the chopping activity was stalled and translocation permission was issued instead.

“We have failed to understand if there was no permission from NDRF then why the activity was initiated so hurriedly? Now, they are planning not to relocate the tree. By entire sequence it seems that someone had motive to get the tree chopped off by one way or the other. Instead, this is an old tree in the heart of the city and should have been preserved,” he added.

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