Odishatv Bureau

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: Environment watchdog the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Union Forest Ministry and the Forest department of Odisha to submit an action taken report (ATR) and status report on alleged tree cutting for the four-laning of the 162 km-long Sambalpur-Rourkela stretch of the National Highway-10 without forest clearance within three weeks.

While hearing an appeal filed by Durga Kisan of Lainga village in Sundargarh district alleging felling of trees on forest land on both sides of the NH-10 without necessary permission, the Kolkata bench of NGT served notices of Secretary of Environment Ministry, Secretary of the Forest department, PCCF Odisha, Roukela DFO and R&B Engineer of Sundargarh.

The NGT noted that the cutting of trees for expansion of the 162 km NH-10 connecting Sambalpur and Rourkela violates the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. It has posted the next hearing on the matter to April 25.

Shankar Prasad Pani, counsel, NGT, said, “Notices have been issued to all parties. Besides, the Forest dept of the Centre and the State were asked to submit action taken report and status report within three weeks.”

Meanwhile, Sanjeet Kumar, DFO, Rourkela, said, “So far, no tree on forest land has been felled for the expansion work. As per the Odisha government order, 2700 trees on non-forest land have been cut whereas 445 trees on the forest land have been left intact.”

Expressing concern over possible felling of 10,000 trees for the NH-10 expansion, environmentalist Ranjan Kumar Panda said, “The way heat wave is on, cutting of trees along the NH is a criminal activity.”

He added, “These days technology is available by which medium to big size plants can be replanted."