Residents wonder why no effort was made to save these trees. D. Madhavan reports
There is now less shade for pedestrians on the Chennai – Tiruvallur High Road (CTH), a state highway between Avadi and Thirumullaivoyal, as more than a dozen trees have been cut down to facilitate the work to widen the stretch.
For a week now, contract workers engaged by the State Highways Department have been felling trees near the Tamil Nadu Special Police Training Centre in Avadi, which is located on the arterial road. “To avoid public attention, the felled trees were quickly disposed of,” said K. Newton, secretary, Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) Residents Welfare Association in Avadi.
Environmentalists have expressed shock that these big trees were chopped without any efforts being made to preserve them. The species of the felled trees have been identified as Albizia Saman, commonly known as rain tree. A native of Mexico, the tree is widely found in south and southeast Asia and is one of the favoured avenue trees in the city, especially on the highways.
“Developmental projects, including road expansion are not planned in a day. So, State authorities should have a contingency plan for the conservation of environment where such improvements works will be done,” said Professor D. Narasimhan, Head, Centre for Floristic Research, Department of Plant Biology & Plant Biotechnology, Madras Christian College, Tambaram.
Most of the trees that have been chopped, environmentalists said, would be more than 60 years old and it was hard to replace them with new saplings.
They added that on an average, a rain tree survived for at least 200 years and grew to a height of around 80 feet. At present, the city had a green cover of around 1.05 lakh of trees and most of them were in the extended areas of the city including Tambaram, Avadi and Ambattur, they further said.
Officials of the State Highways Department, the executive agency of the work, said work on the expansion of the CTH Road between Padi and Thiruninravur, a distance of around 20 km, was began last month with the removal of encroachments, including 700 commercial establishments between Ambattur and Avadi.
The two-lane stretch, which will be turned into a six lane one at a cost of Rs. 98 crore, passes through Mannurpet, Korattur, Ambattur Industrial Estate, Ambattur OT, Thirumullavoyal, Sekkadu, Nadukuthagai and Nemilicheri and carries over 45,000 vehicles every day.
“We ensure that only old and dead trees will be chopped. However, once the expansion was completed, saplings would be planted along the stretch,” a State Highways official said.