Concrete jungle chokes Doon’s green lungs
In 17 years after the state formation, more than 10,000 trees were cut down on the Dehradun-Haridwar road to provide better connectivity to people; the road to the airport via Thano has also seen some axe effect. Trees were chopped for the widening of Chakrata Road. The forest department has transferred land for the airport and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) office.dehradun Updated: Aug 13, 2017 20:47 IST
Once called a sleepy town of green hedges and grey hair, Dehradun has witnessed a fast-growing population -- 655,356 in 2016 – in the last decade, and that has blurred the thin line between the forest cover on its outskirts and the city area.
The cup-shaped valley, surrounded by forests, is rapidly losing its green cover. The city is fast spreading towards the dense green areas, such as Thano, Dudhli and Vidholi.
The Dehradun forest division, according to the 2013 data of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), is spread over 50481.98 sq km, including 49370.5 sq km reserve forest and 1111.48 sq km unclassified and vested forest. About 579.8 sq km forest area has been encroached.
Development takes toll on forest
In 17 years after the state formation, more than 10,000 trees were cut down on the Dehradun-Haridwar road to provide better connectivity to people; the road to the airport via Thano has also seen some axe effect.
Trees were chopped for the widening of Chakrata Road. The forest department has transferred land for the airport and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) office.
The division has, however, managed to secure its forest cover. The FSI report of 2013 has mentioned a 3% increase in forest cover in Dehradun district since 2011.
PK Patro, divisional forest officer (DFO), Dehradun, blames private land owners for the concrete culture of the capital.
“If forest department decides to cut trees, it’s for providing better services to people, especially connectivity. But, what have locals done? They have chopped trees and handed their land over to private builders. It’s because of them that the greenery of the city has been degraded,” he told Hindustan Times.
Forest cover accounts for 65.359% of 3088 sq km geographical area of Dehradun district.
The DFO has suspended a big project seeking permission for chopping down 100 trees on Rajpur Road. “It’s been a year since I have a project on widening of Rajpur Road which I haven’t approved. It’s because the sanctity of the road rests on its green trees. But, if there will be pressure from locals for smooth connectivity, then we will have to take a decision,” Patro said.
Tree cover in city shrinking
The forest department blames private stakeholders for the disappearing greenery of the city. Activists agree and want a freeze on the existing tree cover.
“The claim of the forest department is correct. It’s the people who are at fault. They are cutting trees, supporting vertical development and then crying over the loss of greenery. It’s a saddening situation,” said Nitin Pandey, chief coordinator of the Citizens For Green Doon, a proactive environment group.
Once popular for its litchi and mango orchards, Dalanwala, where horse carts were used for transportation, has now buildings all over. At many places, apartments have replaced green areas.
Mahesh Bhandari, president of the Dehradun Resident Welfare Front and Dalanwala Association, said, “People are butchering trees. It’s been more than 60 years since I am here and I have seen this area turning from green to grey (concrete).”
The road to the Forest Research Institute (FRI) has reported developmental activities, such as road widening and flyover at Ballupur. Construction on either side of the road is also alarming.
The way out
An increasing population has created the need for homes and roads. But, locals demand a policy to check both these facilities.
Col. (retd) Ashok Ranjan, a resident of Race Course, said, “The city is reporting migratory population. To help them adjust, the government needs to focus on creating housing facilities on the outskirts of the city rather than coming up with multi-storey buildings in the heart of the city.”
Some suggested that an action plan be framed to stop vertical development. “The number of storeys should be limited and the development should focus on the horizontal spread,” Pandey said.