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EVEN AS the mercury continues to rise and temperature has already touched 45 degrees celsius in Ludhiana, the authorities have started chopping more than 1,200 eucalyptus (safeda) trees for construction of Ladhowal bypass along the banks of Sidhwan canal. The project, being executed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at a cost of Rs 370 crore was announced by Union Minister for Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari last year. The 17-km bypass is being constructed from Sidhwan Canal to Ladhowal.
The contractor company has now started chopping of trees along entire stretch of Sidhwan canal (on left as well as right sides), which has irked the residents in nearby colonies. Not only this, already chopping of more than 10,000 trees is in progress on the Ludhiana-Chandigarh road for a Rs 2,000-crore project of widening Kharar-Ludhiana road which too is being executed by NHAI.
Flouting the norms, there has been no new planting to compensate the trees chopped for both the projects. The city residents are feeling the pinch of green cover being chopped and scorching temperature with hardly any green spots left now.
Navdeep Asija, Punjab traffic adviser, said, “The forest cover in Ludhiana is just 1.9 per cent of the total area, which is a pathetic number. It should be at least 33 per cent for healthy living. Moreover, chopping trees when summer season is at its peak is not a sensible decision that too in an industrial city like Ludhiana which hardly has any green cover and has the most polluting industries,” said Asija.
Vishal Chauhan, district forest officer, said the NHAI had been granted permissions by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to chop the trees. “They have permission to chop 1,200 trees, majority of them eucalyptus, to construct Ladhowal bypass. They have given us the compensation amount,” he said.
Asked about the compensatory planting, Chauhan said it was “yet to start”. “The NHAI has given us land for planting new trees when bypass will be ready. Some plantation will be also be done at two other sites but work is yet to start,” he said.
Seema Mehra, a resident said, “In two days, they have chopped off the entire greenery along the Canal road. When roads have to be made, they take months and even years but work to chop off trees has been executed at such a great pace. How can we talk of sustainable development without harming environment when this is the attitude? Temperature is on the rise but focus of officials is on reducing green cover instead of planting some new trees first.”
Rahul Verma of Sambhav, an NGO, said earlier too trees were chopped from Ludhiana for road projects and new ones planted in Gurdaspur and Nawanshahr. “How can plantings in such far off districts compensate for green cover chopped in Ludhiana?,” he questioned.