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100 trees felled in Okhla sanctuary (Feb.)



Times of India, Delhi, Thursday 27th February 2014

NOIDA: Even though UP government has claimed that it is taking all steps to protect Okhla Bird Sanctuary, the forest department has ironically allowed the irrigation department to cut nearly 100 fully-grown trees for embankment strengthening in the area. Environmental experts say that only the wildlife board can allow cutting of trees in the protected wildlife zone. When contacted, Gautam Budh Nagar district forest department chose to remain silent on the issue.

The UP irrigation department has not only cut trees but also destroyed vegetation in the name of strengthening the Yamuna embankment near Jamia Nagar in Delhi.

Environmentalist Swarnima Singh was irate over this decision of the government and said that not a single tree can be felled in a protected buffer zone without obtaining prior environmental clearances from the National Board for Wildlife. "The government has no right to allow cutting trees from a protected wildlife habitat. Migratory birds used to throng to this huge vegetation and old trees, but now their habitat has been destroyed," Singh claimed.

Officials of the UP irrigation and forest departments, however, believe that tee felling will not affect the sanctuary, which was declared as protected reserve in 1990. "We have no idea of how many trees were felled for the Yamuna embankment strengthening project. But UP irrigation department took permission from the UP chief wildlife warden to cut the trees," said a senior UP forest officer, on the condition of anonymity.

The matter of protecting Okhla Bird Sanctuary is before the National Green Tribunal which has directed the Centre, UP, Delhi and Haryana governments to take measures to protect this reserve green buffer zone.