KOCHI: he decision of the district-level Tree Committee to grant permission to Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) to cut down 4,300 trees on the 170-acre plot acquired by the company at Ambalamugal to establish its Polyol project has invited the ire of environmental activists in the city. The push for development at the cost of the environment at a time when the state is encountering a recurring threat of devastating floods and landslides has caused concern among environment scientists as well.
The tree cutting forum headed by district panchayat president Dolly Kuriakose had granted permission on Monday for cutting trees on the condition that BPCL plants 43,000 saplings and remit the price for saplings and the charge for maintaining them for three years to the Social Forestry Department. As per law, 10 saplings should be planted for each tree cut down in the name of development.
“Though there is a law that makes it mandatory to plant 10 saplings for each tree cut, there is no mechanism to ensure that it is followed. There is a project to cut down trees on the 17-acre plot housing the old NGO Quarters at Kakkanad for a theme-based leisure and entertainment zone project. The city is already facing depleting air quality and sweltering heat during summer due to decreasing tree cover,” said activist C R Neelakantan.
Meanwhile, biodiversity expert C M Joy, who is a member of the tree cutting forum, alleged the authorities removed him and invited Jacob Lazar, another member, to the meeting to avoid objection.
“I had inspected the spot on July 7 and recommended a study to assess the impact of the destruction of the green belt in the industrial area. I also suggested a site visit by the full quorum of the tree cutting committee of the Social Forestry Department to assess the negative impact. However, the district panchayat and the Social Forestry Department conducted the meeting in my absence to facilitate destruction of the green belt,” said Joy.
However, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Social Forestry) M A Anaz said that it was an industrial area and the project was approved by the state government. “BPCL has agreed to ensure afforestation by planting 43,000 saplings. They will bear the expense for planting the saplings and maintaining it for three years. It takes five years to achieve the target. We are planning to plant 10,000 saplings this year,” he said. Meanwhile, activist M N Jayachandran alleged the afforestation drive has become a farce of late, with the plant saplings being planted in faraway places.
‘It’s a declared industrial area’
KOCHI: Refuting allegations that BPCL was destroying the green belt of the industrial area at Ambalamugal in the name of the Polyol project, the company spokesperson said it was a dedicated industrial area and the land was acquired and handed over by the state government for the project. “The Polyol project is part of the Petro Chemical Park Project being implemented by the state and BPCL and it is the biggest industrial proposal in the state.
The land was dedicated for the project in the 1960s and not a dedicated forest area. The state government has acquired around 400 acres near the project site for the proposed Petrochemical Park project, where allied industries are to be set up,” said the BPCL spokesperson. BPCL had achieved the capability to increase the production of propylene during its recently commissioned expansion project and phase -1 of the propylene derivative Petro Chemical project is nearing completion. In phase-2, propylene derivatives for industries that manufacture paints and solvents will be produced.