The forest department has cut down more than 11,000 trees in Panchmahals and Dahod districts to make room for four-laning of the National Highway 59 connecting Ahmedabad to Indore.
The logging started in early March this year and went on till late June. While 4,072 trees were felled in Panchmahals district,more than 7,000 trees were cut to clear ground for expansion of the highway.
Around 80 per cent of the cut trees were Israeli babool and Deshi babool. Other significant numbers were those of neem and teak trees, M P Panchal,assistant conservator of forest,social forestry,Panchmahals told The Indian Express.
Panchal said the trees were cut from both the sides of the present highway and added that this was done in accordance with the clearance from Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to the road project. He said a 40 km long section of the highway passes through Panchmahals.
Similarly,more than 7,000 trees were cut down in Dahod district neighbouring Madhya Pradesh border. Here,the Deshi babool was followed by Gulmohar and teak on the list of 25 types of trees cut down,forest officials said.
The Dahod authorities auctioned the timber after the felling drive and generated around Rs 48 lakh last year. Social forestry department of Panchmahals have also invited tenders to take part in the auction of 4,481 units of woods.
However,forest officials said compensatory reforestation would be taken up. According to guidelines of the central government,reforestation is very much part of the whole project. Tentatively,land has been identified in Bhavnagar district and a few other places in Panchmahals itself. Planting will be done in reserve forest areas as well, deputy conservator of forests,social forestry,Panchamahls,Rit Suvera said.
The multi-crore project of four-laning the 379 km long NH-59 was approved by central government in 2009.
Incidentally,thousands of trees between Ahmedabad and Rajkot are facing the axe to make room for the proposed six-laning of the stretch of NH-8 connecting Ahmedabad to Rajkot.