The widening of the Mataur-Bagli and Gaggal-Chetru road that leads to Dharamsala is exacting a high toll on the some of its most precious resources- the mango trees in the region.
For many weeks now, contract workers engaged by the state forest corporation have felled as many as 101 old trees on Gaggal-Chetru stretch, while 113 more trees are to be cut down to felicitate the work to widen the Mataur- Bagli road and felling of trees has already begun on this stretch.
Locals and environmentalist have expressed shock that the trees, some of which are half a century old, are being chopped without any efforts to save them. Some of these, being very old, bear rare varieties of the fruit.
"Projects, including road expansion, are must for development of any area but authorities should have a contingency plan for the conservation of the environment,"said Rajesh Sharma, a local resident. He alleged that contractors were felling even those trees which could have been saved easily.
"Trees that are either situated in the backyards of houses or are behind the area marked for widening are also being chopped down,"said Sharma.
He said the trees, particularly the older trees, are slow-growing varieties which take at least ten years to reach their full maturity and can survive for more than 100 years.
"These trees are hardly grown these days; people now prefer smaller and faster growing varieties,"said Sharma. "The big trees provided ample shade to the area. They are now being chopped off mercilessly,"said another local resident, Anil Chaudhary.
The state forest authorities could have easily been saved by translocating them to open areas. Translocation of trees is a scientific process by which fully grown trees can be manually uprooted and replanted elsewhere by applying chemicals over the exposed parts of the roots, which help them adjust better to the new soil.
Meanwhile, executive engineer, Public Works Department (PWD) D S Verma said the department had deposited the cost of the trees to the forest department. "As far as felling is concerned, it is being done by the forest corporation," he said. No forest official could be contacted for their comments.