Thoughtless chopping of trees irks environmentalists, residents

Amritsar, Punjab: Development in the holy city is taking a heavy toll on the green cover, much to the resentment of the environmentalists and local residents. However, Bakshi Ram Arora, mayor, says that they are ready to compensate for the loss and will plant a large number of saplings.

Taking a serious note of indiscriminate chopping of century-old, rare trees in the name of development in Amritsar, MP Capt Amarinder Singh moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which, in turn, has granted three weeks’ time to the state government to decide on Capt Amarinder Singh’s representation.

There are around 4,500 to 5,000 trees that are on the chopping block for paving the way for various development projects. According to estimates, over 2,000 trees and plants must have been damaged while carrying out work on various development projects like the BRTS, Kitchlew Chowk, elevated road or widening of roads in the bypass areas.

Various environmental NGOs of Amritsar protested at all levels, but in spite of verbal assurances, rampant cutting off of tress continued. The centuries-old trees like banyan, pippal, mulberry, jamun, shisham and various other full-grown, healthy and sacred trees were chopped off mercilessly and saplings of palm trees have been replanted in lieu of these.

Only recently, during a general house meeting chaired by Arora, a resolution was passed to allow chopping of as many as 368 big trees and 30 small trees on both sides of Mecleod Road (from Aerodrome road to GT road) to widen it. Similarly, the Forest Department has allowed the PWD (B&R) to fell142 trees on GT road from Bhandari Bridge to Guru Nanak Dev University. These include many trees, which create no hindrance of any sort.

On March 18, an RTI application had been filed in this regard by Parbodh C. Bali to the Amritsar Municipal Corporation asking for information on the total number of trees within Amritsar City since 2008 with all details.

It was confirmed vide letter no. 15 of December 31, 2013, that the Xen (Horticulture), Municipal Corporation, Amritsar, had granted an NOC to the Amritsar Improvement Trust to cut off 858 trees from Circular Road to Kitchlew Road without adopting any procedure or a resolution of the house of councillors, which is mandatory, claimed Bali.

There is also a big setback to the wildlife of the area, causing millions of birds, including endangered species, to lose their shelter and shade. Environmentalist PS Bhatti of Khudai Khidmadgaran said, “It was painful to see full-grown trees chopped off in the name of development. It takes not years, but decades for trees to attain this growth, but these are chopped off in a matter of hours.”

Sheenu Singh of Voice of Amritsar said that already considerable damage had been done to the green cover on the Mall road due to the construction of high-rise buildings and multiplex malls, etc. Further chopping of trees would do irreparable damage to the environment for generations to come.

Source: The Tribune


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