New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has directed an inquiry into the alleged illegal felling and sale of 4,000 trees in the eco-sensitive zone near the Taj Mahal.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar appointed advocate MC Mehta to visit the site near Taj Eco Zone where the trees are alleged to have been cut and asked him to file a report within two weeks.
Taking note of a newspaper report, the Tribunal had issued notice to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Uttar Pradesh government directing them to file their replies.
According to the report, the former Agra DFO had allegedly cut 8,000 trees in Babarpur and around 4,000 trees in 500-metre-radius of the Taj Mahal, which is an eco-sensitive zone.
"The state Government (UP) shall provide all facilities, and if required police security for execution of the commission by Mr Mehta.
"We direct a nominee of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) Dehradun to be present with Mr Mehta during the course of the inspection," the bench said, while fixing Rs 50,000 as fees of Mehta for his visit.
During the hearing, Advocate General Vijay Bahadur Singh, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, told the bench that the newspaper report on which the Tribunal has issued notice to the state government claiming that 4,000 trees have been cut and sold is factually incorrect.
He said that the report was a "mischievous act" and submits that he would file a comprehensive affidavit on behalf of the state supported by Google images and other revenue records to show that not even a single tree, particularly in the Taj Eco Zone, has been cut or sold.
Advocate General further told the bench that state has constituted a High Power Committee to investigate the matter on which the green panel directed it to file the report within three weeks.
The Tribunal also issued notice to the Times of India correspondent on whose report the bench had taken suo motu cognisance of the case.
Chief Conservator of Forests of Agra division, A K Jain,
told the bench that approximately 4,000 trees have been uprooted around 500 metre of Taj Eco Zone and at another site in Babarpur village land has been given to a builder from where nearly 8,000 trees have been uprooted.
However, this was denied by the state government.
The Tribunal also directed Jain to file an affidavit within two weeks giving complete details on felling of trees.
The matter is listed for next hearing on August 10.