BENGALURU: It is estimated that there will be a massive loss of 7.35 lakh trees for upcoming highway projects in Karnataka with most of them falling in the Western Ghats region - the World's Biodiversity Hot Spot. Most of these National Highway projects are in various stages - with some cleared or in the process of getting environmental clearance.
Meanwhile, the State Government has been slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 for failing to file information on tree felling in Highways and compensatory afforestation details to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The tribunal imposed this fine for not filing statements on the number of trees proposed to be cut for various highway projects and maintenance of green cover along them. The State government has to file these details by July 10 to the tribunal.
Collating all the details about the ongoing projects through RTI and other sources, green activists have estimated heavy losses of precious and pristine tree cover in the Western Ghats and the serious consequences on the rainfall pattern and climatic change in the state.
Sahadev Shivapura, Paschima Ghatta Jaagruta Vedike says, "Western Ghats is considered one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots in the world and already more than one lakh trees have been chopped the last 2-3 years for various ongoing development projects.
The seven districts of Kodagu, Chamarajnagara, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru , Shivamogga, Uttara Kannada and Belgavi are the worst affected while even coastal districts of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada which share border with Western Ghats will lose precious biodiversity."
According to a rough official estimate, for ongoing highway widening projects, 52,000 trees have already been felled that includes NH-75 (13,500 trees), NH-13 (500) and NH-4A (38,000). However, no details are available on the number of trees being felled in Shiradi Ghats for the Bengaluru-Mangaluru Highway project.
While Malenadu activist Sriharsha Hegde opines that there has been irreparable damage to the carbon sink in Shivamogga/Chikkamagaluru and other districts. He adds, "The tree felling list is very long - a few to cite -Tirthahalli-Shivamogga widening resulted in loss of 1000 trees while Tirthahalli-Hosangadi widening resulted in 500 trees. Sagar-Honnavar road widening took a toll of 4000 trees and this goes on and on."
Activists further add there has been immense loss in tree cover from other projects like - high tension power lines, irrigation projects - both Yettinahole and Tunga Lift irrigation projects, etc. In fact, the 400 KV High Tension Power Line from Mysore to Kozhikode have resulted in chopping of 54,000 trees in Kodagu while the government has been claiming only 8000 trees, says Sundar Muthana, Coorg Wildlife Society.