Trees felled with impunity for projects in Gajapati and Rayagada districts

In the last 15 days, over 100 trees most of them medicinal have been chopped for widening of roads in Gajapati district.
The chopped trees along the state highway in Nuagada block
The chopped trees along the state highway in Nuagada block Photo | Express

BERHAMPUR: Development at the cost of the environment can have adverse consequences. While trees are being felled for constructing roads and buildings, compensatory afforestation is seldom done to make up for loss of green cover.

In the last 15 days, over 100 trees most of them medicinal have been chopped for widening of roads in Gajapati district. Sources said the Public Works Department (PWD) has felled around 105 trees along a 3 km stretch of state highway from the Khajuripada panchayat office to Dogharia village in Nuagada block.

The trees of different species including banyan, teak, mango, jackfruit and others were felled for widening of the road and construction of drains. Locals said the trees were 30 to 100 years old and provided shelter to people and birds. They said banyan trees are vanishing fast due to lack of space and rapid urbanisation. “Felling of such trees is unfortunate,” they said, adding the PWD should have considered alternatives instead of mindlessly chopping the trees.

However, PWD staff said the trees were chopped as per the road construction map. There was no alternative to chopping the trees, they said. As per Forest Conservation Act, 1980, for every tree cut on non-forest land for a developmental project, two have to be planted while the same for forest land is 10.

However in this case the authorities have blatantly flouted the norms. Similarly, over 60 trees on the premises of the collectorate at Rayagada, have been felled during the last one week for construction of a building. The district administration has decided to construct a meeting hall to accommodate 200 to 250 people along with the office of additional district magistrate. Most of the trees that were felled were medicinal and planted in 2012 by the then collector Sashibhusan Padhy and ADM Laxmidhar Behera. Sources said the trees were felled with the permission of collector Manoj Satyawan Mahajan.

Rayagada forest ranger Kameswar Acharya said since the trees were planted on the premises of the collectorate, they could be felled with the permission of the Forest department.

Collectorate officials had said the norms for Forest Act would be followed but not clarified whether compensatory plantation would be done.

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