Life in Gurgaon

1,300 trees face axe in Gurugram for underpass, flyover to decongest the Old Delhi road

Source: Hindustan Times

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The state Public Works Department (PWD) has sought permission to fell 1,300 trees to construct an underpass and a flyover at Atul Kataria Chowk to ease movement of vehicular traffic between Delhi and Gurugram.

The department has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) through the state forest department seeking permission to cut the trees and start construction at the earliest.

The move comes on the heels of a row which has erupted over a housing project in south Delhi that requires cutting of about 17,000 trees to clear way for homes for government employees besides a commercial complex.

Officials of the state forest department privy to details in the matter said that nearly 700 old trees would be cut from the notified forest land for which MoEF permission is essential. Around 600 trees from green belts of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) will also be felled for which the local forest department has already given a nod.

“For every tree that is cut, five trees have to be planted as per the rule. Accordingly, we will plant trees or saplings at Kasan in lieu of the trees cut at Atul Kataria Chowk. However, PWD cannot start construction unless the MoEF grants permission,” said Deepak Nanda, Gurugram district forest officer.

The state forest department will have to plant at least 6,500 saplings to compensate for the loss of green cover.

With trees being felled indiscriminately in the city to make way for development, experts say residents need to make their voice heard
  • A total of 106 trees will be removed from the Bal Bhawan premises
  • 28 trees will be axed. Of these, 13 are sheesham trees and 15 others are of various other varieties. 78 trees will be transplanted
  • The new auditorium is being built as the old one is in a dilapidated state and can only seat 200 people
  • The new auditorium will be air-conditioned and have a seating capacity of 700 people
  • The project is estimated to cost ₹12.89 crore, and is expected to get completed by mid-2019.

A senior forest official on condition of anonymity told Hindustan Times that nearly 25,000 trees have been felled in the past five years, but in official records the number is around 9,000 trees. Of these, about 14,500 trees have been felled in the past two years for the constructions of underpasses and flyovers on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway to decongest the city.

“The forest department maintains a record of trees felled from non-forest land, which is notified by the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900. This Act states that any agency deforesting notified forest land has to provide five times the land for forestation, but this does not happen and plantation suffers,” the official said, adding that around five acres of forest land will be used to build the underpass.

“A flyover at Atul Kataria Chowk was good enough to decongest the Old Delhi Road. There was no need to construct an underpass, which will need 1,300 trees to be felled,” social activist Aseem Takyar said.

Dr CR Babu, former director of the Biodiversity Park in Vasant Vihar, and professor emeritus at the University of Delhi, said, “I am sorry to say that the people are sleeping as deforestation on such a scale happens in the city. It took me two decades to shape the city’s biodiversity. People should wake up, join hands and put up a strong protest if they want to save the city for future generations.”

A case in point are the new sectors 59-115 that have been called the ‘Future Gurugram’. These sectors have no provision of a green belt or parks.

“Air quality in Gurugram is already bad due to lack of green belts. In sectors 59-115, a huge population is expected to live and they will be without any greenery. This shows the government is adamant on destroying city’s forests,” said Gaurav Prakash, founder member of the Dwarka Expressway Welfare Association.

Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist and founder-director of Hariyali, said, “The MoEF should grant the permission only after the petitioners shows proof of plantation of saplings/trees five times more with a detailed map. This does not happen in Haryana. In absence of a stringent Act, trees are cut blindly and plantation is almost negligible.”

Activists also attribute rampant tree felling to the low penalty. In Haryana, forest rules are not as stringent as in Delhi, where cutting a tree invites a fine of Rs 3,500 against a paltry Rs 200 in Haryana.