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25,000 trees axed, 15,000 more to go for widening highways

Written by: Staff
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Chandigarh, July 5 (UNI) With the felling of 25,000 trees and another 15,000 facing axe for widening of highways in the north region, the Punjab Forests department has a proposal at hand to make land acquisition compulsory along such highways for replantation.

''We are writing to the state government for a legislation for making land acquisition compulsory along such highways where we cut trees, and let the cost of the land acquisition for replantation be incorporated in the entire project of the widening of roads,'' Punjab Forests Principal Secretary D S Jaspal told UNI here.

Lamenting that there was presently no plan for replantation along the highways being widened, he expressed his serious concern over the felling of several heritage trees like palm dates along the Balachaur-Dasuya state highway.

Nearly 8,000 trees were cut down to widen this road two months back.

About 17,000 trees along the Ambala-Chandigarh highway were cut down this month, while over 50 per cent of the marked 15,000 green trunks have been cut so far along the Jalandhar-Amritsar highway, according to Punjab State Forest Development Corporation.

Mr Jaspal said that making land acquisition compulsory along the highways to be widened could only lead to replantation.

''There is no space left for replantation on either side of these highways and we need to acquire land from the farmers to plant new trees along the widened stretches,'' Punjab State Forest Developmet Corporation managing director Gurbaz Singh said.

He said another hurdle for replantation could be the property dealers and town planners, who had already raised huge structures along these highways.

''If Sher Shah Suri could plant trees along NH-1, hundreds of years ago, we can also do efforts to keep the environment green as we now have much more means and modes to function,'' Mr Jaspal said.

The Forest departments of Punjab and the neighbouring Haryana had cleared the decks earlier this year for the ambitious project of the four-laning of the Ambala-Chandigarh highway by giving a nod to the felling of trees along this highway.

The four-laning of 35-km Ambala-Chandigarh road, known as a ''killer stretch'', is scheduled to be completed by mid-2008.

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had also carried demolition drives on both the sides of the highway, specially at Zirakpur and Dera Bassi.

UNI PS VD GC1524

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