96,000 trees cut for widening National Highway , no space for new ones


The state Forest Department has not been given space for compensatory afforestation along the road in lieu of cutting more than 96,000 trees for the broadening of the 219-km Bathinda-Zirakpur section of National Highway-64, even though about Rs 45 crore has been handed over to the department as compensatory amount.On the public concern over a possible barren look along the road from one end of the state to the other, senior officials conceded that the matter could be raised by the India Road Congress on the right forum to pull the state government up for not making adequate arrangements for alternative plantation after road widening.Principal Conservator (Forests) Dr Kuldip Kumar said, “We have not been allotted any specific land strips along the road being widened. Compensatory tree plantation is being carried out in government forest areas in Mohali, Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala and Bathinda districts.

We don’t have any specific plan for compensatory plantation along the road at the moment,”The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has already served a notice to the Punjab Government for axing 96,000 trees on a complaint filed by Sangrur-based Dr Amandeep Aggarwal.Importantly, 50 per cent of the trees were planted around 15 years ago under a Rs 450 crore forestation project.Former CLP leader Sunil Jakhar said, “The government is not at all about bothered green cover or water. The government wasted crores it had got from Japan for tree plantation. Cutting about one lakh trees along a major road of the state needs alternative plantation at the same spot at least in certain portions.”The Guidelines on Landscaping and Tree Plantation 2009 have given detailed references to tree plantation. It said that “tree planting or arboriculture is the most important component of landscaping.

Planting may be functional or for aesthetic effects, but in either case, the objective should be to help restore the unity of the landscape”.Accepting possible hindrances to road traffic, the guidelines said “in the design and development of arboriculture, certain restrictions imposed by engineering, traffic and safety requirements should be kept in view. Trees should be offset up to and beyond 1m back from the ultimate edge of the roadway so that these are not a safety hazard or affect the required sight distances”.PWD Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said, “The tree plantation aspect of road widening is the concern of the Forest Department for which we have made adequate payment. I am sure they have a plan in place to provide shade to long-distance travellers.”AK Singla, Chief Engineer (PWD), said, “The road area earmarked is 45m wide. At the moment, effective road widening is being carried out in 30m. The remaining 15m can be utilised for the green mission. A final call, however, has to be taken by the Forest Department.”

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