Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority seeks approval to fell 1,500 trees
The Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has sought permission from the district forest department to fell about 1,500 trees for its road-widening project in Udyog Vihar and Palam Vihar, which is at an advance stage, officials privy to the matter said.
The project involves the widening of four roads — three roads in Udyog Vihar and one in Palam Vihar.
In Udyog Vihar, the GMDA plans to widen the stretch between Shankar Chowk to Old Delhi Road, Shyam Chowk to Old Delhi Road and Atlas Chowk to Old Delhi Road. In Palam Vihar, the stretch between Bijwasan and Rezang La Chowk will be widened.
Although the forest department is yet to grant permission to fell trees, officials said the permission would only be granted if the GMDA agrees to transplant at least 70% of the total number of trees felled for the project.
“The range officials concerned submitted a survey (of trees) report before me a couple of days ago, and I believe the number of trees that are required to be felled amounts to 1,500. Since these trees are to be removed for the purpose of infrastructure augmentation, we will have to grant permission. We are, however, trying to save the number maximum trees by asking the permission-seeking agency to transplant nearly 70%-80% of the felled trees at suitable locations in the city,” district forest officer Deepak Nanda said.
Nanda added that he had called a meeting with GMDA officials familiar with the matter, seeking details of the transplantation plan last Wednesday.
“We also have asked the permission-seeking agency to deposit a lump sum amount with the forest department for obtaining the clearance. The forest department will use that fund for fresh plantation of trees. On Monday, we will inform the agency about the amount to be deposited,” he said.
This move has come as a source of worry for residents, green activists and for forest department officials because of poor compensatory plantation provisions in the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) of 1900, as compared to the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act.
“For a similar government project in Delhi, any permission-seeking agency has to deposit Rs 57,000 for removal (cutting or transplantation) of each tree with Rs 25,000 refundable amount. In case of individuals, one has to deposit Rs 34,500 under compensatory plantation provision in Delhi, with refundable amount of Rs 15,000.
But in Haryana, we cannot charge the same amount from person or agency, under the PLPA, which needs to be amended,” said a forest official, requesting anonymity.
The official said nearly 25,000 trees have been felled in the past five years, of which about 14,500 trees have been felled in the past two years for constructing underpasses and flyovers on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway.
Besides 10,000 trees may also have to be cut for the Sohna Road project and for the construction of a proposed flyover by the National Highways Authority of India(NHAI), officials said. The state PWD has already sought permission to fell 1,300 trees to construct an underpass and a flyover at Atul Kataria Chowk.
Such large-scale felling of trees has become a big cause of concern for residents and activists.“Air quality in the city is poor. It is an indication of degrading green belts and the rising level of pollution. Forest laws should be made stricter to check the rampant felling of trees in the district,” said Gaurav Prakash, founder member of the Dwarka Expressway Welfare Association.
Vivek Kamboj, founder director of an NGO, Hariyali, said, “In Haryana, forest rules are not as stringent as they are in Delhi, where cutting a tree invites a huge fine of Rs 3,500, against a paltry sum of Rs 200 in Haryana.”