Naturalists want legal provisions to penalise offenders

Twelve thousand saplings, planted by the Tamil Nadu Road Sector Project (TNRSP), have been destroyed in various parts of the State in the last one year, mainly due to formation of new layouts.

The project is an arm of the State Highways Department under its road widening project. Funded by the World Bank, it is being implemented on two stretches – one from Arcot to Tiruvarur and from Nagapattinam to Tuticorin.

K. Asokan, Assistant Conservator of Forests, who is on deputation to the project, said in most places saplings were destroyed during the formation of new layouts; and, in a few other places, they were damaged or burnt by vandals.

Efforts were on to create awareness among people about the raising of saplings along highways, he said. Under the project, 86,500 saplings were planted at a cost of Rs 4.05 crore.

The saplings are maintained for two years. On an average, maintaining a sapling for a year required Rs 300, according to Mr. Asokan.  

D. Vijayabaskaran of Green Cross Exnora, who is engaged in planting saplings in and around Alwarpet here on his own, faces a similar problem. He says that in the city, whenever a showroom came up or a new shop opened, the first victim would be a sapling. Passers-by either broke the branches or destroyed the saplings.

Naturalists complain that there is no legal provision to penalise those cutting trees or damaging growing saplings.

A Forest department officer said as per the guidelines of the Madras High Court, if a tree on a road is cut, 10 saplings have to be planted to compensate the felling. The World Bank, during a project funded by it, insisted that four saplings have to be planted when a tree is removed on the highway.

Absence of strict laws results in such violations.

The State government should take steps to introduce legal provisions to penalise the offenders severely, the naturalists added.