Tuesday, April 24, 2012

5,000 trees fall out with govt for obstructing its devt plan

5,000 trees fall out with govt for obstructing its devt plan

Trees across the state seem to be a minor road block for the government's ambitious road expansion plans. After the AMC, which plans to cut 80 trees on the Gujarat College stretch, it is the turn of state government to raise its axe.
Out of 4,865 trees which will be felled, some are believed to be over 100 to 200 years old. They will be cut to make way for the government's plan of widening the Jetpur-Junagadh highway and the Veraval-Somnath bypass.

A notice issued by the forest department has invited tenders for the sale of 4,865 trees lining both sides of the said roads. The trees will be first felled before they are sold. The notice mentions that the trees were planted between 1979 and 1994.

Interestingly, people close to the development said that the two stretches are home to close to 57 different species of trees, some of them found only in Gujarat. A source in know said that it is the road and buildings department of the state that is driving the agenda.

"The necessary permissions have come from all the concerned departments, including the forest department. But it is the road and building department that wants to expedite the matter," said the source. Principal secretary of the state road and building department, SS Rathod claimed that they are merely acting as coordinators for the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) that is carrying out the expansion work.

However, the chief general manager, NHAI, Gujarat, JK Patel clarified that, "We did not give the advertisement for felling the trees." Evading a direct reply, minister for environment and forest, Gujarat state, Mangu Patel asked to talk to the officials concerned. When asked if he was unaware about the development, Patel said, "I know about it. But these things are necessary to carry out development work."

Apparently, many in the forest department itself are unhappy with the tree cutting spree but are reluctant to speak up.
Another source said that whenever permission is sought to cut so many trees the concerned department, in this case, the road and building department, has to deposit an amount equal to the expense incurred by the forest department to plant double the number of trees in double the area.

"In this stretch, most of the trees were planted by the department. Just some and not all are over 50 years old," said a source.

The government's notice inviting tender for the sale of trees states that around 2,122 trees on the Veraval-Somnath bypass and 2,743 trees on the Jetpur-Junagadh highway will have to be cut.
Sources said that even if new trees are planted for those cut, it will be difficult for the government to come up with such wide variety of species..

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