Guwahati: Narakasur hill tree felling controversy explained
The Indian army’s plan to clear a teak plantation in the Kahilipara area of Guwahati for a proposed nursing institute has sparked outrage among environmentalists. The land, known as Narakasur Hill, was allocated to the army by the state government.
More than 125 trees have already been felled and another 250 are at risk. Activists argue that the loss of trees will have a significant impact on the environment in the area. They have called on the government to halt the project and consider more sustainable options.
Most of the trees on the plantation are Teak, with some Sal species present. After the felling of 125 trees, the Forest Department approved the removal of 544 pieces of logs, depositing the Army a royalty of 100% on the value of the total volume.
The amount of challan has been reported as Rs 3.90 Lakh.
Various infrastructure projects have led to the felling of approximately 7,000 trees in the city in recent years.
Residents protest tree felling
Residents of the Zoo Road area in Guwahati have raised concerns about the felling of trees during the construction of a flyover in the area.
Many were shocked to discover that several trees had been cut down, with locals claiming that some trees along the trail were marked and cut down overnight. The remaining marked trees are also at risk, according to residents.
Some have accused the authorities of destroying nature in the name of development, arguing that the flyover project will have a negative impact on the environment, particularly regarding the problem of artificial flooding in the area.
The forest department has been blamed for the felling of trees overnight. A street vendor, whose small makeshift shop relied on the shade provided by the trees, expressed disappointment at the loss.
This is not the first time trees have been felled for development in the area, with similar incidents occurring last year during the construction of a two-lane flyover project on Zoo Road Tiniali.
Despite the unrest caused by the destruction of the trees, the authorities have promised to plant valuable trees in the area once the construction of the flyover is complete.
Climate Change in Guwahati
Over the past five years, Guwahati has witnessed drastic climate change. The average temperature for the week has skyrocketed to a whopping 32°C, with the highest temperature for the month of August in recorded history on August 5, 2022.
The city recorded a maximum temperature of 38.6 degrees Celsius, almost 9 degrees higher than the average temperature of 29°C recorded five years ago in 2017.
The rise in temperature, coupled with high humidity, has made life miserable for city dwellers, with sick people and children who suffer from heat stroke.
Climate experts attribute the rise in temperature to several factors, including the rapid decline in green cover, land cutting, concretization, low rainfall, and heavy pollution in the city. The situation calls for climate awareness and personal responsibility to curb carbon footprints and help maintain nature.
In November 2019, Guwahati residents protested against the Assam government’s plan to cut down more than 300 old growth trees for the construction of a bridge over the Brahmaputra River connecting north and south Guwahati. The protest highlighted the city’s concern for its environment.
A recent study led by researchers at IIT-Guwahati examined how different occupational sectors in the city are vulnerable to climate change, taking into account the perceptions of its residents. The findings could help develop effective climate-smart urban planning.
A Twitter user wrote ‘A teak forest in the heart of #Guwahati is being cut to make an army nursing institute. The city’s green lung near TV Tower is just 2 kms away from the Dispur Assam Assembly. Dear @rajnathsingh @adgpi @easterncomd please make the nursing institute somewhere else #SaveGuwahati’.
Another user wrote ‘Very unfortunate! Although teak forests are bad for our ecology in Assam, but I’d have loved to see it being replaced by natural mixed deciduous and semi evergreen forests through natural restoration.’.
‘Very disheartening that it is done by the #IndianArmy on land allotted by Assam Govt. Guwahati will soon turn into desert. What is #globalwarming ? Seems, no one cares. Where does #oxygen come from? How many #trees are you planting as replacement?’ Another user tweeted.
Kahilipara is a residential area located in the south-central part of Guwahati, the largest city in the Indian state of Assam. It is a well-connected town with easy access from various parts of the city, crossed by National Highway 27.
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