Green activists held a protest on August 15 against the felling of trees to widen a road near Sevagram Ashram in Wardha.
Following the protest, the Public Works Department (PWD) stopped the tree felling. In meetings with activists, District Guardian Minister Sunil Kedar has said the plan to widen the portion of the road passing by the ashram to four lanes will be reconsidered, sources said.
District Collector Vivek Bhimanwar said, “The issue is about a 2.5 km stretch of the Wardha-Samudrapur Road, which passes by the Sevagram Ashram. At least 250 trees have to be felled for the project. Of these, 70 have already been cut. Before cutting the trees, due procedure, including public hearing, was carried out. But nobody had opposed the project then. When actual cutting started, people came up to oppose it. ”
The protesters said some of the trees were actually planted by Mahatma Gandhi and his associates. But Bhimanwar said, “There is no such record available anywhere and most of the felled trees are not more than 10 years old.”
Sevagram Ashram president T R N Prabhu said, “We have nothing to prove that these trees were planted by Gandhi. The ashram has not taken any stand against cutting the trees. The government has promised to plant five trees for every failed tree.”
Although the road is not part of the Sevagram Development Plan, the activists say that the four-laning is to facilitate plying of vehicles coming to the ashram in the wake of new facilities being created at the spot under the plan.
The Rs 165 crore development plan began in 2016 and envisages construction of visitors’ cottages, a shopping mall, an amphitheater, an auditorium, students’ library, and a research centre, a museum on Gandhi’s life and work and a parking lot, among other things.
“At least 70 per cent of the work has been completed under the plan,” Bhimanwar said.
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