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Raking in the moolah by felling trees

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A tamarind tree, felled for road-widening, lying across the NH-5 on the outskirts of Guntur on Wednesday.
A tamarind tree, felled for road-widening, lying across the NH-5 on the outskirts of Guntur on Wednesday.

Special Correspondent

Contractor pays for felling trees, sells the timber in market

Contractor also given the job of planting 2.10 lakh trees

Another 25 per cent of tree-clearing work still left, he says

GUNTUR: Road widening for converting four-lane National Highway No.5 into a six-lane highway between Vijayawada and Chilakaluripeta has resulted in felling of 1.5 lakh trees of all ages and temporary blocking of several stretches of the road.

Under the Supreme Court directive trees should not be felled and accordingly, the National Highways Authority of India has entrusted the job of obtaining permission from the Forest Department for cutting all these trees, removing them from the site and paying penal fee of Rs.12.5 lakh as cost, to SCR Nurseries, Plantations owned by S.V.N.S. Chalapathi Rao of Thiruvuru. The contractor pays for the cutting of trees and also sells the timber in the market to recover the cost. He has been entrusted with the job of planting 2.10 lakh trees in place of 1.5 lakh trees cut as per WALT Act and maintaining them for three years at an estimated value of Rs.8.5 crores.

Traffic jam

On Wednesday traffic got jammed on the Guntur-Chowdavaram portion of the NH-5 when a massive tamarind tree was cut and its wood transported in several lorries.

On an average even if the weight of the wood recovered from each tree is supposed to be 2.5 tonnes considering there are trees of all ages and sizes, it brings in a moolah to the contractor as even if the timber is sold only as firewood.

Firewood is sold at Rs.2,000 per tonne and considering the income from 1.5 lakh trees, a lot of public investment in terms of trees over last several years is lost.

Contractor Chalapathi Rao told The Hindu that another 25 per cent of trees clearing work was still left on the project that was scheduled to open the two additional lanes by 2011 January.

He was raising a nursery at Boipalem and very soon will start some more in other areas, so as to plant new saplings by June 2010, so that they take root during the rainy season, in time for providing shade to users in the completed lanes.

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