Nurupur: Alignment tracing for highway widening begins sans SC nod

Nurupur: Alignment tracing for highway widening begins sans SC nod

2022-04-28 01:34:40

Rajiv Mahajan

Nurupur, April 27

The NHAI has started earth cutting in a forest area for tracing a new alignment of the proposed Pathankot-Mandi highway four-lane project under the jurisdiction of Nurpur forest division before mandatory FCA permission of the Supreme Court. This is being done despite specific provisions in the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 that restrict the diversion of forestland for non-forest use.

As per information gathered from the approval letter issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (a copy is with The Tribune), clearance under the FCA-1980 was granted in February subject to the permission of the Supreme Court. The provisions of the FCA are allegedly being violated under the nose of the Forest Department.

A company is executing the road widening work from Kandwal to Bherkhud in Nurpur. It has pressed its earth excavator into service for new alignment tracing in the forest area here and completed the tracing work from Bodh to Bherkhud without the permission of the Supreme Court.

Inquiries reveal that the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had initially given the FCA approval in December 2021 and after completing all stipulations, the state government had moved the file again early this year for the final clearance. The ministry has granted the final nod subject to the permission granted by the apex court.

The union ministry, in its communique (FCA clearance) to the state government, had put 25 conditions, including the apex court’s mandatory permission to be fulfilled, for diversion of 50.98 hectares of forestland being used for the widening of the National Highway No. 154 in the package one from Kandwal to Sihuni.

RK Gupta, nodal officer, FCA-cum-Additional Principal Chief Conservator Forest, says that the government had received the FCA clearance for the package Pathankot-Mandi highway widening project from the Centre on February 22. The government had submitted the case to the Supreme Court for the FCA permission on March 22.

DR Kaushal, Chief Conservator, Forest, Dharamsala, says that he has given directions to the Divisional Forest Officer, Nurpur, not to allow any work on forestland till the FCA approval and initiate legal action against the authorities that violate the provisions. He adds that the responsibility of the forest staff will be fixed after getting a detailed report.

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