Even as the state government is making efforts to conserve environment and India as a whole witnessed decline in environment-related crimes, Himachal Pradesh seems to have bucked the trend and has recorded an increase of 72 per cent.
As per the report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2018, Himachal recorded 270 cases of environment offences, the majority of which falls under Forest Act or Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife Protection Act.
The worrying trend for the environment in the hill state gains more significance as only 196 cases were registered 2017 and 178 in 2016.
Though the total number of environmental crimes is only 0.8 per cent of all such offences recorded in the country yet it undermines the national trend of decline (83 per cent) in such offences in the country.
The country has recorded a total of 35,146 cases in 2018 as compared to 42,142 in 2017 and 4732 in 2016.
The majority of cases that were recorded in the state (240 cases) were the violations of Forest Act, Forest Conservation Act, followed by Wildlife Protection Act (24 cases) and 6 cases of Noise Pollution Act.
The hill state had recorded an increase of 42 per cent in cases of illegal tree felling, encroachments and smuggling as compared to the previous year.
In fact, the state government was criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for failing to curb such crime through ‘Van Thanas’ (forest police stations) as the rise in such cases since 2014 stood at 44 per cent.
In Wildlife crimes too, Himachal had beaten the national trend of decline in such cases by 5 per cent and had recorded an increase of 33 per cent.
Of the 270 cases, 13 cases were found to be false and in 70 cases, the cases were true yet the investigating agencies couldn’t find sufficient evidence to further pursue these cases.
What is more worrying that only 6 persons had been convicted in such cases while 382 persons including one female had acquitted in the courts. (The cases include previous years’ cases that were pending trials in the courts)
And only 45 persons were arrested by the police in environment offences cases in 2018 and all of them had been charge-sheeted in courts.
Among the major states which had also beaten the national trend include Tamilnadu with 14,536 cases, Rajasthan (9784) and Kerala (5750).
It is worthwhile to mention here that NCRB records offences related to The Forest Actor Forest Conservation Act, 1927, The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, The Environment Protection Act, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act) 1981 and The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1974.
The NCRB had added three more Acts, the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003, Central and State Noise Pollution Acts and The National Green Tribunal Act 2010 in 2017.