In a bid to accommodate a fleet of 3,000 buses, nearly 110 eucalyptus trees were chopped off on the Haryana Roadways workshop campus at Behrampur near Hero Honda Chowk in the last 10 days.
According to the Gurgaon chapter of the Haryana Forest Corporation, the roadways department had approached it to axe the trees spread across the campus.
“The Haryana Roadways department had requested us to raze the trees as they had to accommodate 3,000 buses there. There were a few rare tree species too such as kikar for which they are seeking permission from the forest department to cut them,” said a senior official of the Haryana Forest Corporation, on condition of anonymity. The corporation merely carries out the felling of trees as directed by the department or the law.
According to the re-notification of the Punjab Land Preservation Act 1900 (PLPA) of January 4, 2013, eucalyptus, poplar, bakain, bamboos, tut, guava and ailanthus, have been exempted from the forest department’s protection shield. This suggests that these seven trees can be cut down by anyone. Earlier in 2011, only two species were exempted - eucalyptus and poplar.
On the other hand, environmentalists in the city have been opposing the move since its inception.According to them, these trees make for 30% of the city’s tree cover. “The seven exempted trees are nearly 30% of Gurgaon’s total tree cover. Since they are exempted, there is no compensatory aforestation policy either. If this goes on for long, Gurgaon will lose most of its green cover,” said Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist at NGO Haryali.
On March 19, Hindustan Times had highlighted the environmentalists’ non-acceptance on the issue of blanket exemption.
The purpose of the exemption was for rural areas in Haryana, wherein the exempted trees are usually used by farmers for commercial purposes.
For example, eucalyptus is used for making paper and oil. Bamboo has a high commercial value and the wood of ailanthus is used to make matchsticks.
Thus, prior to the exemption, farmers had to seek permission to cut down a tree.
Trees such as eucalyptus and poplar are orchard and timber species with high commercial value. The exemption was to do away with the tedious procedure of seeking permission every time a farmer wanted to axe a tree. “It is wrong to have a blanket exemption. There is a difference in rural and urban areas. Although these trees have commercial value in the villages, they have high environmental benefits in urban areas. Moreover, Gurgaon’s tree cover is about 4%, according to the Forest Survey of India,” said Chetan Agarwal, an eminent environmental analyst. In addition, environmentalists say that Gurgaon, like Delhi and Chandigarh, needs a Tree Preservation Act.