Two road projects estimated to cost ₹ 1077.32 crore and ₹ 250.62 crore are set to spell doom for hundreds of banyan trees that line the road on either side between TSPA Junction and Manneguda and onwards to Vikarabad.
Activists are up in arms as word has spread about the imminent cutting of the gigantic trees that turn the two-lane leafy highway (earlier known as SH-4 now rechristened NH-163) into a shady boulevard.
A number of trees have already been cut and their stumps can be seen lying on the road. For others, earthwork is going on to create space for the road.
To stop the tree cutting, two sets of petitions are doing the rounds online. One petition floated by a non-governmental organisation pins translocation of the trees as a solution. It has garnered 20,029 signatures.
The other is a petition to the Chief Minister of Telangana to change the route to save the trees. By Thursday evening, 22,848 people signed up for the petition. Incidentally, out of the 13 tree stumps that have been translocated only one has survived. A survival rate of 7.69%.
“The entire stretch is full of banyan and other trees that are very large and old, and form ecosystems unto themselves. There are no such tree clusters left anywhere in the 40 km radius of Hyderabad. If they die, a part of Telangana’s heritage dies with them. Translocation is not an option. Climate change is another important reason. We need to stop cutting down trees — a lot of damage has already been done,” says Sadhana Ramachander of Nature Lovers of Hyderabad.
“Why can’t the trees be used as a median by acquiring land on the other side? It will become a landmark and can even be provided as a solution to rampant tree felling during road widening projects to other States. The road can become a tourist attraction,” says another activist.
Incidentally, in the executive summary for the road project, the care of trees doesn’t figure. It cites the National Board for Wildlife decision of March 20, 2013, to skirt road-widening near the Mrugwani National Park. However, the road will be widened near Khandlapalli Reserve Forest. “We create new plantations whenever we widen roads. If some trees can be relocated we do that as well,” said a National Highways Authority of India official.
The document delineates the dimensions of the road: “The existing 2/4 lane highway will be widened to 4/6 lane with 12m median and paved shoulder configuration. A widening proposal has been prepared based on the availability of additional land/existing ROW, horizontal geometrics, study of existing bridges and considering road safety parameters.”
However, the Indian Road Congress Code – SP73-2015 proposes 2-lanes with shoulders for roads where the average annual daily traffic (AADT) is less than 18,000 passenger car unit (PCU), at the time of bidding. The executive summary document calculates AADT at 10,352 PCU at one location and 14,811 PCU at another site. The projected traffic calculation is expected to reach 19,212 PCU only in 2025.