A Mission Impossible! To Develop a Road Without Cutting 3K Plus Trees?

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A Mission Impossible! To Develop a Road Without Cutting 3K Plus Trees?

Mangaluru: For years people, including motorists plying on the National Highway 169 have been urging and pressurizing the government and elected representatives to widen the stretch of this NH, which has resulted in lots of accidents and also been creating inconveniences due to the narrow road. And now quite a few people are raising their objections against the felling of trees to make way for the widening of the NH 169 stretch from Bikarnakatte until Mijar/Sanoor in Karkala taluk. The activists want the road to be developed but without cutting the trees, planning on a different option is saving the trees.

This has been a BIG headache for the officials of the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI) as to how to go ahead with the NH widening without cutting the trees which are right in the way of the road development. It is learnt that at least 3500 trees have to be cut in order to widen the said stretch of the NH 169, of which 2,616 trees are on the 18.5-km stretch of government land. 912 trees are in private land for which a stay has been obtained. Environmentalists had objected to the move made by the forest department regarding the identification of trees and had urged for a re-survey so that several trees can be saved, during a meeting held with Forest department Officials a few days back.

On 20 June, a bunch of environmentalists, residents and activists had gathered near the entrance of Cordel/Kulshekar Hall and had an interaction with the authorities of NHAI, Forest department officials and Area Ward Corporators, and the conversation turned ugly with loud arguments between the officials and activists. From the NHAI, Mohammed Nasir- Site Engineer, Kamalesh Mishra- In-Charge Plantation/Horticulture dept and Ajay D’Silva- Land Acquisition Surveyor; and on the Forest dept side, Sanjay Lamani- Deputy Range Forest Officer -Mangaluru division; and Corporators Ms Shakeela Kava (Ward Kadri 32 North) and Kishore Kottari (Ward 35 Padua) faced the residents and the activists.

Speaking to Team Mangalorean RFO Sanjay Lamani said, “Nearly 2,616 trees were identified by the department after a joint survey with representatives from the National Highways Authority of India, the office of the Special Land Acquisition Officer and the Public Works Department, and there is no stay order on cutting 2,616 trees which are on government land. Our department is following a transparent process. Notice on conducting a public hearing for felling trees was sent to activists well in advance. We are not hiding anything from the public”.

“If people or activists are willing, we will show the trees that have been identified for felling. You can count those trees. We too are interested in saving trees. We are also ready to accept suggestions from the public, as to how we can save a bunch of trees from getting axed. We need cooperation from the public for the development of NH 169”, added Sanjay.

Corporator Kishore Kottari, hitting at the activists said, “We are also looking into saving trees, but at the same time we are concentrating on development too. For every tree that needs to be cut, we plant a bunch of trees, as per PM Modi’s initiative of Green Environment. We need to also worry about these trees which are over 100 years old and are on the verge of collapsing and doing damage. When such trees or tree branches fall on vehicles or properties, we don’t see any environmentalists or activists. Do you think it is right? Then why all this Nataka here”.

Meanwhile, Environmentalists had a strong argument with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the forest department for a resurvey, in the presence of the public, with the intention of saving trees from being needlessly axed, for the NH widening. Meanwhile, many people have already filed their objections to the felling of trees in writing, while there were quite a few people who favoured the road widening.

The activists took serious objection to the forest department conducting the survey to mark trees for felling, without the public being involved. Stating that the landowners have brought more than 17 stay orders on the widening of this highway, they asked why the authorities are felling the trees in a hurry, without even waiting for the stay orders to be vacated. Engineer Nasir of NHAI, said that the width of this stretch was reduced to 45 m from 60 m, to save many trees. Only those trees that come in the way of 45 m, have been marked for felling. However, citing several examples, the activists said that several trees were axed unnecessarily in the past, and it will be the same case here too.

Environmentalist Jeeth Milan Roche speaking to Team Mangalorean said, “An earlier resurvey in the presence of the public, had helped save several trees on the Padil-Pumpwell stretch. It should be a win-win situation for both. Several small trees that have not been listed, will also be axed. Also, roads must be designed, keeping the trees in mind. Environment activists are interested in saving some trees from falling on the stretch.

“Earlier, we saved more than 100 trees from felling for widening the road stretch between Pumpwell Junction and Padil in the city after talking to the Forest Department. Similarly, we want to save as many trees as possible on this stretch of NH 169 between Bikarnakatte & Mijar/Sanoor. We activists are not in favour of cutting trees. It is unfortunate that more than 3000 plus trees are identified for the purpose of road widening. Whenever the road is widened they should keep trees in mind. Here, they are keeping the road in mind and axing the trees” added Roche.

It is learnt that NHAI has taken steps in getting the stay order vacated, and the Forest Department is yet to complete the process of enumerating the number of trees on the 21-km stretch of the National Highway 169 between Sanur and Mijar, which comes under Moodbidri Range of the Kundapur Forest Division. Environmental activists Dinesh Holla, and Shashidhar Shetty, among other activists, joined in the hardcore conversation on this issue with the concerned authorities.

In conclusion, road development is needed, but at the same time, development should not be at the cost of the environment. How can you replace old trees? You need to come out with an alternative plan to save as many trees as possible. Our government is not ready to invest money for moving the grown-up trees from the way and placing them on the other side, rather than this, they are ready to cut down all the trees because they are cost-effective, less labour cost and also time-consuming. They are not ready to move the grownup trees also and are not ready to replant them. Cutting down one tree may not be necessarily bad. Although cutting down acres of trees is one of the main causes of global warming. 

Deforestation causes less shade and therefore causes a temperature rise. The shade that creates lower temperatures is the desired environment for many plants so without that shade and lower temperature many plants die. All of this eventually leads to desertification, which is the process by which fertile land eventually becomes desert. Therefore, while development is needed, care should also be taken to save as many trees from getting axed in the name of development. A positive plan needs to be executed before the start of any developmental work, in order to save GREEN ENVIRONMENT.

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