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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Ferozepur Road elevated project: All 600 transplanted trees dead, green activists shocked

The axing of trees had become a major issue last year after a city-based non governmental organisation approached the NGT and requested to put the construction work of Ferozepur Road-Samrala Chowk elevated road project on hold in order to save the green cover. 

punjab Updated: Oct 11, 2019 06:23 IST
Mohit Khanna
Mohit Khanna
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
The transplanted trees (with white marking) which are now dead at Amaltas village in
The transplanted trees (with white marking) which are now dead at Amaltas village in (Gurpreet Singh/HT)
         

Green activists of the city, who had launched a massive campaign against the felling of trees due to elevated road project, have been taken for a ride as all 600 trees that were transplanted are now dead due to what could be termed callous attitude of the forest department and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). 

The axing of trees had become a major issue last year after a city-based non governmental organisation (NGO) approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and requested to put the construction work of Ferozepur Road-Samrala Chowk elevated road project on hold in order to save the green cover. 

It was initially decided to relocate 2,000 trees, the number which was brought down to 1,122.

However, due to high transplantation cost — Rs 35,000 per tree — another revision was made. In the final assessment, it was decided to transplant only 675 trees, each at a cost of Rs 10,000, revealed sources in the department. 

The trees were uprooted from Ferozepur Road and replanted at a green cover near Amaltas village in December last year. 

Sukhjeet Singh, owner of GHG Enterprises that had transplanted 600 trees, claimed that he was not paid even a single penny for the purpose.  

“Redtapism and shifting of responsibilities between the NHAI and forest department has resulted in the death of over 600 trees. First they hired a private company for transplantation of 2,000 trees and after seeing quotation, they formed a committee that decided to relocate only 675 of them. But due to lack of care and supervision, those trees also died,” he added. 

BLAME GAME

On the one hand, forest department has denied its involvement in the process while on the other, NHAI says it was not responsible for the maintenance of tress.

“Our department was neither involved in the transplantation process nor responsible to look after the trees,” divisional forest officer (DFO) Charanjit Singh said.  

“However, we had even written a letter to the NHAI in January this year stating that three trees required profuse watering,” he claimed.  

Project director appointed by the NHAI to supervise the construction work, Bhupinder Singh, maintained that the highways authority and construction company had nothing to do with it.

“The trees are property of the forest department and their care was meant to be carried out under their supervision,” Bhupinder Singh said. 

‘NOT FORTUNATE AS AAREY ACTIVISTS’

Jaskirat Singh of an NGO, Ludhiana Cares, said the situation was similar to that is being witnessed in Mumbai.

“While Aarey forest issue hogged limelight and became a topic of national debate, environment lovers of Ludhiana were not fortunate enough. The axing and unscientific transplantation never became an issue, and the negligence that followed resulted in the death of trees,” he added.

Amrita Mangat, founding member of RBS Roots, said the administration and the civic body were never serious about it.

“The entire transplantation process was merely an eyewash,” 

THE PROJECT

The 13km elevated road is being constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) from octroi post on Ferozepur Road (NH 95) to Samrala Chowk at a cost of ₹756.27 crore. 

The elevated road has remained a subject of controversy ever since the work began in 2017. The project started in October 2017 with the targeted completion within a period of 30 months (April 2020), followed by 48 months of maintenance by the construction agency — Gammon India. 

First Published: Oct 09, 2019 22:41 IST

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