HT EXCLUSIVE: More than 33,000 trees to be axed for Char Dham all-weather road project
DEHRADUN: No less than 33,000 trees will be felled across four districts in Uttarakhand to give life to the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.
Of these 18,969 trees will be axed in the Narendranagar forest division, which covers the area around the Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway stretch. Different species, including silver oak and deodar, which take several years to grow, will be cut, as per documents submitted by the forest department.
Modi laid the foundation stone of the all-weather ₹11,700-crore road project in Dehradun on December 27, days before the assembly elections were announced. The project seeks to link all the four pilgrimage centres – the shrines at Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri— via dependable roads.
Seven new roads will be constructed, 15 big bridges, 101 small bridges, 5,596 culverts and 12 by-passes. The government has set March 2019 as the deadline for the project.
Some 7,000 trees are coming on the way of the project in Rudrapryag forest division, which saw immense ecological loss during 2013 flash floods — for which deforestation has been cited as the major reason — in which 5,000 people lost their lives.
Rajeev Dheeman, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Rudraprayag told HT that two levels of clearances are needed. “ The monitoring of the project is going at different levels and there should be no delay,” he said.
NN Pande, DFO of Badrinath said they are yet to count the trees. “The estimated number of trees that will be chopped is somewhere around 5,000 for 50 km stretch,” he said.
A maximum of 18,969 trees will be cut in the Narendranagar forest division, said Rahul, the DFO. He does not use a surname.
Conservator (forests) of the Garhwal region, AK Rastogi, said the as per norms, trees can be felled only after double the affected land is provided for reforestation. “Trees have to be cut for development works. But we do it after a long process. For instance, we plant 200 saplings if we cut 100 trees in a bid to maintain the green cover,” Rastogi told HT.
According to the 2015 report of Forest Survey of India, the total forest cover in Uttarakhand is 24,240 sq km, against the total geographical area of 53,683 sq km.