Other States

Odisha felled 6 lakh trees in six years for road projects

Odisha's Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha informed the State Assembly on Tuesday that 5.97 lakh trees had been felled in the last six years to make way for the construction and widening of roads. Mr. Arukha, however, claimed that forest cover in the State has gone up by 25% in the past decade.

Paying a heavy environmental price for development, it was revealed that the Odisha Forest Development Corporation cut down the trees for 437 road projects across the State. The current fiscal year has been the most devastating for forest cover in Odisha: of the 5,97,090 trees felled since 2011-12, 3,15,838 were cut down in 2016-17.

Worst hit

Keonjhar district has been the worst hit with 94,996 trees felled — 20% of total trees lost — in the past three years for 23 road projects.

In 2016-17 alone, Keonjhar lost 76,439 trees while Kalahandi district lost 62,959 trees.

Other affected districts include Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Jharsuguda and Jajpur.

Although the Odisha government claims to have planted 1.65 crore trees along 24.57 lakh km of roads in the past decade, the chances of the trees surviving is doubtful. In 2016-17, avenue plantation was taken up along 5,462 km of roads, said Mr. Arukha.

New variety

“The loss cannot be compensated. Thousands of trees felled for road projects in Keonjhar and Kalahandi were over 70 years old. Mature fruit-bearing trees were sustaining wildlife. The trees planted now are of the exotic and fast-growing variety,” said Biswajit Mohanty, environmentalist and former member of the National Board for Wildlife.

Trans-location

“The State government never thought of trans-locating trees while taking up road projects. In Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, trees are uprooted and replanted at another place. Had translocation been done here, we could have saved 60% of the trees," said Mr. Mohanty.

The loss of green cover to road projects is just the tip of the iceberg.

As many as three lakh trees were felled as part of the land acquisition process undertaken for the shelved POSCO mega-steel project near Paradip town four years ago. While 2.25 lakh of the felled trees came under the forest-classified category, 75,000 were fruit-bearing species.

The residents of Rajkanika in Kendrapara district had opposed the felling of trees for the Cuttack-Chandbali road project. "Trees from the colonial era were cut down. When NH authorities decided to fell trees, we opposed it. But nobody paid heed to us. These losses cannot be compensated," said Gayadhar Dhal, a resident of Rajkanik


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 2:49:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-felled-6-lakh-trees-in-six-years-for-road-projects/article17567168.ece

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