Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding cutting of trees in a 'deemed forest' by Bhopal Municipal Corporation, 04/08/2023

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Nitin Saxena Vs Department of Forest & Others dated 04/08/2023.

The application was filed by Nitin Saxena, a resident of Bhopal complaining that Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) has illegally cut several trees in Borvan forest area/Borvan Park where more than 1,25,977 trees are standing and it comes in the catchment area of 'Bhoj wetland', a Ramsar site.

BMC with an intention to construct a yoga/meditation shed sought permission from the Additional Commissioner, Horticulture Branch and Tree Officer, Nagar Palika Nigam, Bhopal to cut 100 trees. Permission was granted by the Assistant Commissioner (Horticulture) Nagar Nigam, Bhopal vide letter dated May 2, 2023.

Another letter was submitted on May 3, 2023 stating that construction has to be raised on 1 hectare land in Borvan for which 28 trees of less than 38 cm circumference and 57 trees (more than 30 cm circumference) have to be cut.

The BMC proposed to plant 284 trees and also proposed to deposit Rs 4,11,800 with the State Commissioner (Horticulture) Nagar Nigam, Bhopal. The amount was deposited and directions were issued by the Assistant Commissioner (Horticulture), Nagar Nigam, Bhopal to cut the trees vide letter dated May 4, 2023.

Applicant has contended that Assistant Commissioner (Horticulture), Nagar Nigam, Bhopal has no authority to permit cutting of trees in a forest which is a ‘deemed forest’ in the light of Supreme Court’s judgment in T.N. Godavarman (supra) and competent authority for granting permission is ‘Central Government’ in view of Section 2 of Forest Conservation Act, 1980. It is also said that “non-forest activities” in the forest land are prohibited unless prior approval of the Competent Authority under Section 2 is granted.

Apparently, it is evident that BMC is proceeding after obtaining permission from its own official working in Nagar Nigam, Bhopal who is not competent to grant such permission under FC Act, 1980 and further 'non-forest activities' in the forest land of Borvan cannot be carried out at all, the NGT noted.

The NGT, Central Zonal Bench, Bhopal directed Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Madhya Pradesh; State Wetland Authority and Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board to look into the matter. If trees have been illegally cut or any construction has been raised on the forest land of Borvan which is a 'deemed forest' without prior approval of competent authorities, then the construction activities of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation has to be restrained and construction already raised has to be demolished and appropriate environmental compensation imposed upon the municipal corporation.