2,000 saplings planted on HMT land in lieu of trees that would be felled for Metro

Around 2,000 saplings planted by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on Hindustan Machine Tools-owned land in Kalamassery have been neglected while in their neighbourhood more than a 100 trees have been marked for death for a road-widening project by the State Public Works Department.

The 2,000 saplings were planted in part compensation for the trees that would be felled for the Metro Rail project. More trees would be planted in the coming days, said a spokesman for the Metro Rail authority admitting that the saplings were in poor shape. The condition has partly been blamed on the heavy rains that followed the planting of the saplings in May.

A visit to the site on Monday showed that the more than a dozen saplings found on the site of compensatory planting had no protection at all. The general secretary of All Kerala River Protection Council S. Sitaraman alleged that some of the saplings planted by the Metro Rail authority were buried during earth levelling work done on HMT land.

The Kochi metro official has said that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation would soon approach the Department of Forests for saplings and would also seek sufficient land for the plants. The site chosen earlier for the compensatory planting was not fully suited as a high voltage power supply line passed over the site.

Meanwhile, environmentalists and a group of HMT workers have come out against the move to cut down trees on the 5.5-km stretch of road between HMT Junction on National Highway 47 and Manalimukku, close to the Kochi Medical College.

Joint secretary of HMT Employees’ Union (CITU) P. Krishnadas appealed to reconsider the decision to cut down more than a hundred trees for four-laning the road, a project that is estimated to cost about Rs. 20 crore. He said the road could be widened without cutting down the trees.

Dr. Seetaraman, however, has appealed for cancellation of the permission given to PWD for cutting down the trees and demanded that the Department of Forests insist on compensatory planting of trees being done before the road widening work was taken up.

He said permission was sought for felling 140 trees and granted for 100 trees, which include rain trees, peltophorum (manja konna), paala or blackboard tree, jack and mango trees.

A Department of Forests official said the PWD had promised to take up compensatory tree planting after the road-widening work and to look after the saplings for a period of five years.

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