Tree-felling: Forest Dept.’s decision to call public grievances meeting criticised
Flaying the Forest Department’s decision to hold public grievances meeting during lockdown on the proposal to chop 3,368 trees for widening the Shivamogga-Tumakuru road into a four lane, environmentalists have termed it as an indirect ploy to suppress the voices of resentment against the loss of green cover. The project intends to reduce travel time between Bengaluru and Shivamogga.
The road-widening work is estimated to cost ₹4,425 crore. The department had issued a notification on March 14 inviting objections from the public to chopping of trees on either side of the 53-km stretch from Tarikere taluk in Chikkamagaluru district to Bhadravati taluk in Shivamogga district for the widening work.
The public grievances meeting has been convened at the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forest in Bhadravati on Monday. Ajay Kumar Sharma, a Shivamogga-based environmentalist, told The Hindu that the road where the trees would be chopped passes through Tarikere, Lakkavalli, Umblebailu and Bhadravati forest ranges that are hotspot of bio-diversity. The trees on the roadside, known for their timber and ecological value, are being chopped in large numbers in Malnad region in recent times in the name of road-widening.
Referring to the recent proposal to cut 430 trees for the work of widening Tirthahalli-Megharavalli stretch of National Highway 169(A), he said that after the environmentalists conducted their own survey on road width and submitted a report to the department, the number of trees to be chopped was reduced to 93. There is a possibility of saving a good number of trees on the Tumakuru-Shivamogga road too, he said.
Anticipating strong resentment from environmentalists in the public hearing meeting, the event has been convened during the lockdown period, he said.
Mr. Sharma said: “As social gatherings have been cancelled, convening a public hearing meeting by the department would send a wrong message. Moreover, there is no clarity on how social distancing would be maintained at the event. Considering these aspects, the meeting should be postponed,” he said.