NHAI felled 20,500 trees on NH-7, planted 1.10 lakh, none survived | Nagpur News
To compensate for these felled trees, 1.11 lakh trees were planted in 2016 on forest land in the South Umred Range, to balance the ecology. Six years later, there are not many trees to show for all the compensatory reforestation on the plantation sites. In six years, the dry tree stumps that are visible haven’t even grown six feet.
On September 24, 2013, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had learned suo motu of a TOI report on NH-7 and subsequently passed various orders to save the crucial corridor between Pench-Kanha Tiger Reserve -Navegaon-Nagzira. The court cleared the felling of 20,500 trees on the commitment of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to plant five times (1.11 lakh) the number of trees that were to be felled.
According to NHAI’s affidavit in court, more than 1.11 lakh saplings were planted on 100 hectares of forest land. These included 27,775 saplings each in the reserve and protected forest compartments numbers 382, 289, 356 and 350 respectively at Chikhaldhokda, Mandwa, Mangrud and Salebhatti in South Umred.
However, even as NHAI tree felling continues unabated for road widening in the area, gross irregularities by NHAI and the Forestry Department in plantations at the above sites have were brought to light during a fact-finding mission by the city-based association Swachh with TOI by making four one-off visits over the past 15 days.
The NHAI and the Forest Department tried to play it safe on the survival of the planted trees. NHAI Project Manager, NL Yeotkar said, “We have deposited over Rs 3.73 crore for the cost of Compensatory Afforestation (CA), and an amount of over Rs 3.95 crore for present value net (NPV) of approximately 49 hectares of forest land diverted for the highway expansion. Thus, we deposited over Rs7.68 crore. The money was paid into the account of the Compensatory Reforestation Fund Management and Planning Agency (CAMPA).
“As we are not an expert agency and struggle to maintain our own roadside plantings, we approached forestry officials. It was up to them to maintain these plantations. We even paid money to replace saplings that suffered mortality,” Yeotkar added.
However, Nagpur Deputy Conservator of Forests (DyCF) Bharat Singh Hada, who joined last year, said: “We need to make a site visit to check these plantations before commenting.
The Swacch Association team took the GPS positions of the four sites and discovered that of the 1.11 lakh saplings, not even 500 trees might be alive. It seems that despite the case pending in the High Court, the two ministries are not taking seriously the enormous ecological damage they have caused. The NHAI felled a large number of trees on NH-7, and the Forest Department did not maintain the plantations.
“Zero Tree Survival exposes Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s lofty claims on successful plantings by NHAI. He argues that every tree planted instead of those cut down will be counted does not hold in the NH-7 case. Third parties must be done and the culprits must be held accountable, nor can the NHAI ignore its responsibility by blaming only the Forest Department,” the members of the Swacch Association said.
During site visits to the four sites, it was found that these compartments turned into tall treeless grassy meadows, and the trees observed on the plots were tall dry stumps. There was some tree cover at the edge of the compartments but those trees looked old and certainly hadn’t been planted six years ago.
In Mandwa, two van majors guarding the grasslands against forest fires claimed that as the land is degraded and rocky, no plantation survives here. “As the grass has grown high, the planted trees are hidden in the meadows,” they said. Similar was the response to other compartments.
In Chikhaldhokda, villagers deployed as laborers for plantation work said the forest department tended the saplings for a few years and then stopped, causing their death. The team found that the plantations failed despite the four sites being guarded by barbed wire fences to keep livestock out.
At the entrance to the four sites, faded display panels provide information on the number of trees and species planted, and the number of matches with the compensatory afforestation objective. At all four sites, plantings were not successful, even at one site.
TOI has found that reasons for failure include poor site selection, refractory soils, poor species selection, poor planting material, poor protection, grazing, fires, etc. At the Mangrud site, trees planted on the side of the road outside the fence survive better.
The court had said that NHAI as well as the state government, in order to have an ecological balance, should ensure that compensatory afforestation would be done in a serious manner so that there is the least negative impact on the environment. ‘ecology.
However, the court orders were defied and constitute contempt. The Swacch Association plans to file a contempt of court motion against the Forest Department and the NHAI. When the petition was heard, the court was so serious that it even asked the forestry secretary to justify why action should not be taken against him.
Later, in an affidavit submitted to the court, the Forest Department on October 31, 2017, claimed that plantations at the above four sites had a survival rate of 83-97%. However, the facts now need to be checked.