ANDHRA PRADESH

Indiscriminate chopping of trees results in ‘balding’ of NH stretch

Driving along the NH-65 was an enchanting experience for road users earlier, particularly two-wheeler riders, as the massive trees planted decades ago on either side of the road had formed a green canopy. But now, the experience is long forgotten as the GMR-Punj Llyod Consortium, which had taken up four-laning of the road, felled some 8,070 trees, but failed to follow the norms in replanting 16,140 trees as a compensatory afforestation measure along the 150-km stretch of the highway in Nalgonda district.

Speaking to The Hindu , a two-wheeler rider, who commutes regularly between the ‘highway towns’ of Choutuppal and Chityal, said that the drive on the 25-km stretch was a great experience as the road was almost fully covered with tree shade earlier.

Treeless stretch

“I never felt tired while commuting on the road and used to take rest for a few minutes under the shade of trees. But now the 25-km stretch is without any tree,” he pointed out. Truck drivers too used to take a nap by stopping their vehicles alongside the road, but such scenes have disappeared long ago when the chopping of trees began in 2008 to widen the road. A truck driver from Punjab, Amanpreet Singh, who has been coming to Vijayawada driving his goods lorry since 15 years, told The Hindu that they are now taking rest only at some dhaba s.

Mr. Singh recalled how they used to cook under the shade of huge trees but such a pleasure is missing now. The truck driver says they were compelled to drive long distances to find a suitable place for taking rest due to lack of shade along the road, which was also a reason for the increase in the accident rate.

The contractor has planted 16,140 plants along the highway, but most of them have withered away due to negligent attitude of the authorities. Officials pointed out that the contractor should have planted a particular species of saplings, which were three years old, but he preferred to plant only six-month-old saplings. The forest department served notices on the contractor and as well as on the National Highways Authorities twice, but in vain.

Enumeration on

A source in the forest department told The Hindu that they were conducting the enumeration of plants which had not withered away to submit a report to the State government seeking action against the contractor and highways authority.

A teacher at Kethepally, M. Yadaiah, has appealed to the government to bring back the green cover along the highway by asking the NHAI and the contractor concerned to raise the trees following due norms.