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Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

The Supreme Court has prevented the Himachal Pradesh government from implementing it's decision to permit the cutting of trees until further notice. Taking serious note of the move, the court has also sought an explanation from the state government. The decision to lift the ban on felling was taken by the state cabinet in December. The ban was imposed 16 years ago.

Following the apex court's decision, chief minister P K Dhumal held a number of meetings with forest department officials to find a face-saving formula. principal chief conservator of forests S K Pande rushed to Delhi to consult senior lawyers and also the environment ministry prior to filing a reply in court.

The decision of the Himachal government while coming as a surprise drew criticism from a number of environmental bodies and the people in general. The environment ministry has also sought an explanation from the state government recently and reportedly observed that felling of trees should not be permitted for the purpose of raising finances.

Fears were expressed that though the government might only stick to silviculture felling, this may revive the timber mafia. The ban on felling was earlier lifted during President's rule in 1992, but was reimposed by the succeeding Congress government.

The state government is likely to take the stand that it did not intend to lift the ban on felling of green trees and its decision was confined to silviculture felling for scientific regeneration of trees. A senior official said that the felling would be strictly in accordance with the forest working plans -- to be approved by the Union government. Of the 28 working areas, the plans for 19 have already been received. He claimed that the decision of the state government to go in for silviculture felling was not in violation of the blanket ban, which the Supreme Court had ordered in 1995.

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