670 km stretch of East-West Corridor
BY Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Sept 23: The tiol Highway Authority of India (NHAI) seems to be out of step with present-day concerns over climate change and its impact. Only this can explain NHAI's hemming and hawing over re-plantation of more than 1.36 lakh trees it got chopped down in the State to build a 670-km stretch of the East-West Corridor.
It has allegedly flouted the norm of planting 999 saplings per km of the newly-constructed four-lane East West Corridor, environmental NGO Green Globe said today, citing RTI findings.
The NHAI is building the 670-km Srirampur-Rangiya-gaon-Silchar four-lane highway which is part of the East West Corridor. About 90 per cent of the project is said to be complete.
The authority had got court clearance to cut a total of 1,36,547 trees along the way. The State Forest department is the agency entrusted with the task of cutting down the trees, after paying the necessary compensation funded by NHAI. The NHAI is also paying the department for afforestation programmes to compensate for the trees chopped down.
Green Globe's secretary Rajesh Dutta Barua said though the entire project is nearing completion, only median plantation was carried out in about 10 per cent of the stretch.
"As per norms, 999 trees should be planted every km of the highway - 333 median plantation and 333 in each of the avenues. Our findings reveal that only median plantation was carried out in about 10 per cent of the highway stretch," Barua said.
Green Globe had filed an RTI application in April, 2014 seeking information on the re-plantation work. In its reply, the NHAI had stated that the re-plantation work could not be carried out as the road construction was still in progress.
Another RTI application was filed in February this year. In the second reply, the NHAI stated that no avenue plantation work is provided for in the contract. "There is no scheme at present for avenue plantation in the contract," said the RTI reply.
In the reply, the NHAI also indicated that in some stretches, the saplings planted have already died.
The NGO also alleged that no barricading was provided to protect the planted saplings. Besides, the size of the saplings was below the highway norms and no fertilizer was used to help the plants grow, resulting in the death of many such saplings planted along the highway.