Rajahmundry: Ongoing felling of nearly 4,600 trees located on either side of the two-lane 30 km stretch of road, connecting Rajanagaram-Samalkot to develop it as a four-lane road, has been drawing criticism from environmentalists as it will create a major impact on the local environment in the region in East Godavari.
As part of development of Visakhapatnam-Chennai Industrial Corridor, the state government has taken up the road development project, at an estimated cost of `293 crore, as it serves as a main road connectivity between Rajahmundry and Kakinada and also to Kakinada Port.
It has roped in Road Development Corporation to execute the works which in turn fixed Bengaluru-based private agency called DSR Infrastructure Private Limited, through bids, for taking up the works.
As the two-lane road is having plenty of grown up trees on either side, the RDC authorities sought permission from the Forest Department to fell them and accordingly, the Forest authorities carried out enumeration of the trees and found them to be 4,600 and valued them at `60-70 lakh.
The species of trees include teak, mango, coconut, several fruit bearing and also local species such as Thella Maddi.
As majority of trees, identified for felling, is located in government land while some in private land, the affected farmers and people will be compensated as per norms.
On the other hand, the Forest authorities are supposed to raise plants on 1:2 ratio which means that for every tree cut down, they are supposed to raise two plants at a suitable location to compensate the felling of such a large number of trees at one go and they are also supposed to give a cost estimation to the Road Development Corporation authorities so that they can pay the amount for raising the plants.
East Godavari District Forest Officer (Territorial) Dr Nandani Salaria said: “We have given permission to fell trees to take up road development works, as per norms. To compensate the loss of green cover, we will raise two plants for each tree that is cut down.”
However, environmentalists have been raising a hue and cry over lack of proper planning, with the state government, for taking up development works and also for raising green cover in sync with each other.
They alleged that when the same road was developed as two-lane road, involving several crores of rupees, with the financial assistance from Asian Development Bank, the authorities raised plants on either side, leaving no space for further development of the road as four-lane after some time and this has been resulting in felling of fully grown up trees, causing serious impact on local environment.
They made a fervent appeal to the state government to keep enough space on either side of the four-lane road, after its completion, to ensure it to be developed as a six-lane road after some time and to plant saplings on either side of the road accordingly, to avoid their felling again.
Environmentalist Dr. T. Patanjali Sastri said: “Lack of proper planning with the authorities, be it the state government, NHAI and other stakeholders, has been resulting in felling of a large number of trees, for road expansion works all over the state, repeatedly causing environmental disaster. This practice has to be stopped immediately.”
- Road Development Corporation authorities maintain that they saved nearly 1,000 trees from felling by carefully taking up alignment of road expansion leaving extreme left or right side.
- Regular commuters between Rajahmundry and Kakinada turn critical after noticing felling of trees by saying that the two rows of trees on either side of road used to give them cool and fresh air and wonder how long it takes the same green cover to come up on upcoming four-lane road.