Odisha forest dept suggests translocation of trees instead of felling for widening highways
Concerned over large-scale felling of trees due to expansion of highways in Odisha, the state forest department is expected to suggest to the national highway authorities that they go in for translocation of trees instead of cutting them down.
Odisha principal chief conservator of forests Sisir Ratho said the forest department would soon request the NHAI to consider translocation of trees, which can survive during transportation, instead of felling them. Trees like Banyan, Peepal and Ashok can be saved through translocation. If the technique succeeds in saving trees along the highways, it can be implemented in cities and other locations at a later stage,” Ratho said.
Earlier this year, Odisha forest and environment minister Bikram Keshari Arukh told the state assembly that 18.5 million trees were cut between 2010 and 2020 for widening of national highways such as the Sambalpur-Chhatisgarh section of NH-6, four-laning of Bhubaneswar-Puri road, Panikoili-Remuli section and Remuli Rajamunda section. However, just about 2.98 million trees were planted in place of the felled trees, just about 16 per cent of the trees that were cut down. More tree felling is on the cards after Union minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari in February this year approved 3 six-lane projects in the state.
Earlier, environmentalists in the state had expressed concern over felling of 1,720 full-grown and old trees of different species for the widening of a 40 kilometre stretch of the National Highway 59 in Ganjam district. The ₹126-crore project is aimed at widening the road to 12 metres from 7 metres between Ratanpur near Berhampur city and Mundamarai near Aska.
Project director of NHAI in Odisha, Ramprasad Panda said though the agency has not done any translocation of grown trees during highway expansion in the state, it would try to do it. “But there are several issues as not all trees can be relocated. We don’t have the expertise. It has to be done by OFDC or some forest agency. Besides, very old trees can’t be relocated. Another issue is getting the necessary space for planting of the same after relocation. But we would definitely try for relocation of trees as much as possible,” Panda said.
Badri Lal Chaudhary, a botanist from Rajasthan who has reportedly moved more than 10,000 trees across the country and outside over last 18 years said there is need for tree relocation due to the declining green cover.
“As cities are rapidly losing forest cover, we have to take steps to save each and every full-grown tree. Peepal and Banyan trees should be saved as they have sentimental value. Translocation can take a day to a week depending on the species and physical conditions like climate, temperature, soil conditions have to be accounted for before translocation,” he said.
Recently, the Central Public Works Department in Delhi had proposed to transplant over 1,800 trees inside the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts complex, as part of the Central Vista redevelopment project.
However, Odisha-based environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty said translocation is not a feasible idea as not every tree can be replanted. “A tree cannot be transplanted just by simply uprooting it and placing it in a pit somewhere else. The process involves several steps and requires significant expertise. The entire cost of transplanting any tree depends on its age, weight and distance to be shifted. The older a tree is, larger is its weight and harder is it to treat its root anatomy. Any tree which is older than 20 years is difficult to translocate. The translocation has to be done not very far from the place where it originally grew. As the survival of transplanted trees is around 10 per cent, we have been suggesting that before expansion of national highways, let the officials first plant trees just around the place where the expanded project will end. This should be done at least 3 years before the actual work happens. If those planted trees survive, then the authorities can cut down the existing trees for expansion,” said Mohanty.
Mumbai-based naturalist Shardul Bajikar also expressed doubts whether tree transplantation can work in India. “It is a very sensitive process and I don’t know if proper procedures are followed in India. Various precautions need to be taken after tree transplantation. The survival rate of trees that are transplanted in India is well below 10 per cent,” he said.