VELLORE: More than a year has passed after the Vellore District Administration gave a ‘free hand’ to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to axe over 65,000 trees along the National Highway 46 for expansion work, but the road development body is yet to take steps to restore the green cover along the corridor.
Environmentalists and Forest Department are crying foul as the NHAI continue to flout norms laid down by an August 3, 2010 ,government order and a High Court directive to plant 10 saplings for every tree felled.
The district administration had allowed the NHAI to maraud the 148.2 km stretch from Walajapet to Vellakkanatham, a place bordering Krishnagiri District, said a forest department official on condition of anonymity. “We handed over nearly 75,000 well-grown trees of various species, planted on either side of the road, in 2008 to the NHAI. The trees were evergreen and efficient in carbon assimilation that would reduce noise and air pollution,” the forest department official said.
The Sub-Collector of Tirupattur had given permission to NHAI to fell a total of 46,960 trees, while the Sub-Collector of Ranipet and Revenue Divisional Officer of Vellore had given their consent to cut down as many as 8,611 and 10,013 trees in their jurisdiction respectively, a year ago, sources in the district administration and forest department told Express.
“The three revenue officials had given their consent without insisting that NHAI should follow the GO and Madras High Court directive to compensate for the felled trees. It is a clear case of violation of the GO and also attracts contempt of court,” a source in the district administration said.
Going by rules, the NHAI should plant a total of 6,55,840 saplings to meet the mandatory ratio of saplings to restore the green cover. However, the authority had not taken any initiative to fulfil conditions of the GO leaving the entire stretch barrne and without green cover.
“The NHAI has not yet come up with a blue print regarding the plantation of the trees despite beginning the six-laning work a year ago,” the forest department official added.
District Collector Ajay Yadav, however, said, “The NHAI has taken up plantation work in certain areas. The district administration, along with the forest department, is also helping the NHAI in identifying the locations and species that are suitable for the environment here.”