The Odisha authorities on Tuesday stated that it has lower over 1.85 crore timber within the final 10 years for widening of roads.
Replying to a query of BJP MLA Mohan Majhi within the meeting, on the variety of timber felled for widening of roads in Odisha between 2010 and 2020, forest and surroundings minister Bikram Keshari Arukh stated the timber have been lower for widening of nationwide highways such because the Sambalpur-Chhatisgarh part of NH-6, four-laning of Bhubaneswar-Puri highway, Panikoili-Remuli part and Remuli Rajamunda part.
Nonetheless, nearly 29 lakh timber have been planted instead of the felled timber at an expenditure of ₹66.17 crore. The full variety of timber planted have been about 16 per cent of the timber that have been lower down. The Ministry of Atmosphere, Forests & Local weather Change has approved the state governments to grant Common Approval underneath Part 2 of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land as much as 5 hectare in every case for creation of important public utility infrastructure by authorities departments involving felling of timber not exceeding 50 variety of timber per hectare in Maoist-affected districts. As per Forest Conservation Act, 1980, for each tree lower on non-forest land for any developmental undertaking, two timber need to be planted whereas the identical for forest lands is 10.
Expressing shock over the massive lack of timber attributable to highway widening, environmental activists stated the losses are irreversible. “The timber that have been felled should be at the very least 20-30 years outdated. The timber weren’t simply giving shades to pedestrians, but in addition sheltered a number of birds and reptiles. Recouping the losses is a close to unattainable process. The federal government could have planted round 30 lakh timber to recoup the losses, however I doubt if greater than 5 per cent timber would have survived. The federal government ought to have checked out alternate options reasonably than merely sawing the timber,” stated famous environmental activist Hemant Sahu.
Final month, whereas listening to a plea associated to the chopping of greater than 350 timber for the development of highway over bridges (ROBs) in addition to widening of nationwide freeway in West Bengal, a Supreme Court docket bench headed by chief justice SA Bobde had stated the highest court docket could introduce a protocol so that there’s minimal injury to the surroundings.
Listening to one other plea on chopping of timber for a highway undertaking in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court docket in December final yr had questioned why timber must be lower extra usually than wanted for the widening of roads. “Why do roads need to be laid in a straight line by chopping timber? Maintain roads zigzag. It is going to scale back pace, reduce accidents on roads and save many lives,” a bench presided over by chief justice S A Bobde had stated.
However regardless of the SC glare on chopping of timber for highway widening, a number of such initiatives are operational in Odisha. In Ganjam district of Odisha, at the very least 1,720 fully-grown and outdated timber of various species shall be lower for the widening of a 40 kilometre stretch of the Nationwide Freeway 59 there. The ₹126-crore undertaking would widen the highway to 12 metres from 7 metres between Ratanpur close to Berhampur metropolis and Mundamarai close to Aska.
“Phailin cyclone in 2013 uprooted a number of timber in Ganjam. However now all roadside timber shall be worn out to widen the highway,” stated Sudhir Rout, founding father of Aryabhatta Basis, an organisation combating in opposition to tree felling.
The big scale felling of timber have taken their toll on the forest cowl of the state. As per the FSI-2011 report, Odisha had a forest cowl of 58,136 sq km which got here all the way down to 51, 619 sq km in FSI-2019 report. The lack of forest cowl has occurred not simply attributable to highway widening, however attributable to successive pure disasters in addition to a number of industrial initiatives.
Cyclone Phailin, that struck the districts of Ganjam and Khurda in 2013, led to lack of 15400 timber whereas tree cowl in 29 sq km space in reserve forest and guarded areas have been broken. Cyclone Fani in 2019 uprooted 22 lakh timber, most of them fruit bearing timber in Puri and Khurda districts.
In one of many largest-ever tree-felling workout routines for an industrial undertaking in latest occasions, over 17,000 timber have been lower in December 2019 in Sambalpur district. An opencast coal mining undertaking of central government-owned Neyveli Lignite Company developing at Talabira space of Sambalpur district would lead to diversion of 1,038.187 hectares of prime forest land, having timber like Sal, Mahul, Asan, Dhaura, Jamun, Mango and Char. By a conservative estimate, at the very least 1.3 lakh timber can be lower to make approach for the Talabira coal blocks.
“Talabira coal block can be among the many initiatives in latest occasions when a lot of timber have been lower. In case of freeway enlargement, the federal government may plant solely 16 per cent of the timber lower and nobody is aware of how most of the saplings survived. Talabira has the most effective Sal forests in Odisha and as soon as 1.3 lakh timber are lower nobody is aware of what number of years it’s going to take to regenerate the identical tree cowl,” stated Sankar Pani, environmental lawyer.