The National Green Tribunal has directed the authorities, including the Nainital district magistrate and the Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board, to take action against unauthorised cutting of trees in the Himalayan lake town.
The tribunal was hearing a petition that claimed hotel owners in the municipality area of Nainital City are flouting environmental norms, including illegally felling endangered tree species. This is adversely affecting the area’s environment and ecology.
In an order passed on August 22, a bench of Acting Chairperson Justice SK Singh said there had been “serious violations of environmental rules” for which the authorities concerned failed to take suitable action.
The bench, also comprising Judicial Member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and Expert Member A Senthil Vel, said the calculation of penalty for the unauthorised cutting of trees by the divisional forest officer concerned was “meagre”.
“The regional officer concerned who is statutorily bound to act against the violators failed to exercise his duties sincerely, fairly and honestly and failed to control the illegal cutting of the trees and also failed to ensure the compliance of environmental rules ,” the bench said.
It directed the member secretary of the Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board to take disciplinary action against the regional officer concerned for “encouraging the violators” and non-compliance with rules.
“Accordingly, we direct the forest department to take action for the realisation of the cost of the trees State Pollution Control Board, district magistrate and the municipal corporation are directed to take action against the illegal cutting of trees ,” the bench said.
The tribunal directed them to ensure the plantation of at least 10 times the trees that were illegally cut. It said the “proper species” of trees are to be planted.
It also ordered the authorities concerned to file within three months an action-taken report.
The report has to include the steps taken to prevent other environmental violations such as the discharge of sewage into the Naini Lake, improper solid waste management and encroachments, the tribunal said.
The matter has been listed for further proceedings on November 28.