PM’s upcoming visit to Odisha: Over 1,000 trees felled

For preparing a helipad for his visit to Balangir town; no permisssion sought, says forest department

January 13, 2019 11:09 pm | Updated January 14, 2019 12:42 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

PM Narendra Modi. File photo.

PM Narendra Modi. File photo.

Felling of over 1,000 trees for a temporary helipad for the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the western Odisha town of Balangir has made green activists see red.

Under the urban plantation programme, saplings were planted on 2.25 hectares controlled by the Indian Railways in 2016 . As a vacant land was required for the helipad, authorities had to clear 1.25 hectares.

“Even if it was a small patch of plantation, authorities were required to take due permission before felling the trees. Once plantation programme is taken up in a land, trees cannot be cut down without prior permission. A case should be filed against the officer responsible for the act,” said Biswajit Mohanty, an environmentalist.

‘Allegations true’

The State forest department had conducted a preliminary inquiry into the tree felling. “The allegation of tree felling is true. No prior permission was sought from us for it,” said Samir Kumar Satpathy, Balangir Divisional Forest Officer.

“When we asked the Railway officials, they said the land had been cleared for a helipad. From the security point of view, trees were urgently cut down, we were told,” he said.

According to the on-the-spot inquiry, trees were four- to seven-foot tall and the survival rate was close to 90%.

“We are apprehending that trees between 1,000 and 1,200 have been lost,” Mr. Satpathy said.

K. Siva Subramani, the Balangir Superintendent of Police who was overseeing security preparedness, said there was no vacant space available for landing of helicopters.

Prime Minster Modi is scheduled to flag off the inaugural run of a train on the Khurda-Balangir railway line before addressing a public meeting in the western Odisha town on Tuesday.

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