Crores on smart infrastructure, green cover gets peanuts in Bhubaneswar

One lakh trees damaged by Fani, over 2,500 felled for NH expansion and other infra work; but only 31 per cent compensated

Published: 27th April 2022 07:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th April 2022 07:48 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Of all the reasons why Bhubaneswar has hotted up like never before - at least, feels like it - a most glaring one is its vanishing green cover. Sadly, the State Government and its agencies seem to be not investing in what once used to be the Capital City’s protective shade.

Though the government has spent crores in building urban infrastructure projects in the Capital, very little attention has been paid to improving the City’s green canopy. Notwithstanding the hits Bhubaneswar has taken from natural disasters.

The Capital suffered damage to over 1 lakh trees in May 2019 after Cyclone Fani ravaged coastal Odisha. Besides, about 1,700 trees were felled for NH expansion near Khandagiri and other stretches, while another 1,000 large trees have been chopped off for road, building and other infrastructure projects. 

There, however, has been a mere 31 per cent afforestation in the City to compensate for all these losses to the City’s greenery in last three years - way less than government’s idea of planting 10 saplings for 1 tree felled or damaged. 

Sources in the City Forest Division acknowledge that no major plantation drive has been taken up since 2019-20, while officials from BMC say plantation activities from their side was nil in 2021-22.The civic body reportedly planted only 7,000 saplings in 2019-20 and 2,000 in 2020-21 investing around Rs 49 lakh, majority of which was used in fencing around the plants.

The Odisha Forest Development Corporation (OFDC), on its part, planted 25,000 saplings in 2019-20 for which it spent around Rs 7 crore from Odisha State Disaster Management Authority fund to recover green cover in and around the city. After that, there has been little plantation activities by the Corporation.

On the contrary, by March 2022, nearly Rs 740 crore was spent for city beautification and development of infrastructure in Bhubaneswar under Smart City Mission. Around Rs 150 crore was pumped in to complete Smart Janpath and the 11-storey BMC-ICOMC building at Satya Nagar under Smart City but city’s depleting green cover has received little attention. Bottomline: The government spent way more money in structures that leave the city smoking hot but forgot to revive its lungs.

It had planned to develop urban forest parks in six patches including Ekamra Kanan, Medicinal Plant Knowledge Centre, Smruti Van, Ekamra Van, Jayadev Vatika. All are still on paper.City Forest Division sources say they are struggling to carry out plantation drive in the City due to delay in permission. “We proposed IDCO to go for plantation in barren areas around Infocity-II project at Janla. However, the permission is yet to come by,” he said.

Researchers from IIT Bhubaneswar and other reputed institutes say concretisation and expansion and development of infrastructure without enough attention to restoration of greenery and wetland has led to change of the regional micro-climate of Bhubaneswar.

A senior professor and meteorologist from a national institute, unwilling to be named, said the City has failed in developing any green infrastructure that could be solution to heat radiation or urban heat island effect.

“While consultants are roped in from outside spending crores of rupees, the State government is failing to reach out to local scientists and researchers who have studied city’s geography and climate closely and could suggest better ideas to tackle the crisis,” he said. BDA chief horticulturist and environment member AN Dhar, however, said adequate steps are being taken in the city to increase Capital’s green cover to address the issue.

“Urban infrastructure development is a dynamic process and brings changes to city landscape. However, considering its adverse effects, adequate steps are being taken to ensure green cover,” Dhar said and added that despite impact of cyclone Fani, City’s green cover is nearly 25 per cent at present.

Green Casualty

Bhubaneswar suffered damage to over 1 lakh trees in May 2019 after Cyclone Fani 
About 1,700 trees were felled for NH expansion. Another 1,000 trees were cut for other infra projects 
31 per cent afforestation to compensate for the City’s greenery in last three years
Investing Rs 49 lakh, civic body planted only 7,000 saplings in 2019-20 and 2,000 in 2020-21


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