Urban Forestry and Parks
KBR National Park
BIRDS OF THE HYDERABAD AREA
FOREST CONSERVATION
Date: 8.12.2008

To
Shri Venkat Akkineni
Managing Director
Annapurna studios,
H. No 8-2-293/82/A, Road no 2, Jubilee Hills,
Hyderabad - 500033

Dear Sir,

Sub: Annapurna studios, Survey no 403, village Shaikpet, Golkonda Mandal, Area: 22.03 guntas, Town survey no 1, Block no B, Ward no 9.

According to sources, Annapurna Studios is going to have a swanky new entertainment complex on its premises. For implementation of the project , the Studios reportedly plan to cut down the forest, known as 'Seven Acres', which is used extensively for forest scenes in movies. The Studios reportedly plans to build malls and multiplexes on that land.
We wish to bring to your notice that under the Andhra Pradesh State Water, Land and Trees Act 2002 and Rules 2004 there under, felling of trees , even within private premises, is prohibited without the prior approval of the designated authorities named in the Act and the Rules. Please, therefore let us know whether:

•  You have any plans for felling the trees in the premises of Annapurna studios, and if so, the details thereof.
•  Whether you have any plans for translocating the trees
•  Whether you have obtained the requisite permissions from the designated authorities.Meanwhile, we request you not to proceed with any plan of felling of the trees. Please acknowledge receipt of this letter.
Thanking you,

ARSHEA SULTANA
On behalf of Forum for a better Hyderabad

 
Date: 8.12.2008

To
Sri.M.J.Akbar
The Divisional Forest Officer,
Forest Department,
Hyderabad.

Dear Sir,

Sub: Annapurna studios, Survey no 403, village Shaikpet, Golkonda Mandal, Area: 22.03 guntas, Town survey no 1, Block no B, Ward no 9.

According to sources, Annapurna Studios is going to have a swanky new entertainment complex on its premises. For implementation of the project, the Studios reportedly plan to cut down the forest, known as 'Seven Acres', which is used extensively for forest scenes in movies. The Studios reportedly plans to build malls and multiplexes on that land.
Please let us know whether the studio owners have applied for any permission to you; whether you have given any permission to him or to anybody else for the felling of trees in the above premises, and if so, the details thereof, including any plan for translocation of the trees. Meanwhile, we request you not to grant any permission for felling the trees, and to cancel any permission if already given.
Thanking you in anticipation.

M.MADHUSUDHAN
Member, Sub-Committee, Forest & Wild Life
Forum for a better Hyderabad

 
Date:05-12-2008
To
Sri.S.P.Singh, IAS.,
The Commissioner & Special Officer,
Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation,
Hyderabad.
Sir,
Sub: Annapurna studios, Survey no 403, village Shaikpet, Golkonda Mandal, Area: 22.03 guntas, Town survey no 1, Block no B, Ward no 9.

According to sources, Annapurna Studios is going to have a swanky new entertainment complex on its premises. For implementation of the project, the Studios reportedly plan to cut down the forest, known as 'Seven Acres', which is used extensively for forest scenes in movies. The Studios reportedly plans to build malls and multiplexes on that land.
Please let us know whether the studio owners have applied for any permission to you; whether you have given any permission to him or to anybody else for the felling of trees in the above premises, and if so, the details thereof, including any plan for translocation of the trees. Meanwhile, we request you not to grant any permission for felling the trees, and to cancel any permission if already given.
Thanking you in anticipation.

M.MADHUSUDHAN
Member, Sub-Committee, Forest & Wild Life
Forum for a better Hyderabad

 
The Project Engineers of Radial Ring Road of HUDA approached the Civil Societies to visit and give advise on tree cutting on the roads from Lunger House to Andhra Pradesh Police Academy (APPA ) and the another road from Tippu Bridge to Gandipet. These roads are under consideration for road widening where the probable tree cutting may take place to make a way to lay Radial Ring Roads No.3 and 4 subsequently will join the Outer Ring Road. In this context, the HUDA Project Engineers sent a requisition letter to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) , Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy Districts to permit to cutoff the trees wherever it is necessary.

As per the above requisition, the visit of roads from Retibowli to Andhra Pradesh Police Academy and from Tippu Khan bridge to Kokapet Junction was conducted yesterday i.e., 1.7.2008. The members of the FORUM, Official from Forest Department and Engineers from HUDA and TOI have participated. The Times of India has published the information about the visit.

The Forum thanks the “Times of India” for awareness about green movement through wide coverage.

 
Date: 4.07.2008
To
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests,
Aranya Bhavan, Saifabad,
Hyderabad
Dear Sir,
       TREE FELLING in the twin cities
We refer to our earlier letter dated 16.5.08 expressing our concern at indiscriminate felling of trees at Rajendranagar for widening the road from Indra Reddy statue to Himayatsagar. The works are taken up by the Roads and Buildings department with the permission for felling of trees given by the Forest Department. We also traversed on 1.7.08 the roads from Rathibowli to AP Police Academy and from Tipu bridge to Kokapet junction , which are proposed to be widened to be connected to the outer ring road. Lining these roads are over 2000 trees of which many are native species Applications for felling of trees along these routes are pending with the Forest Department, On our request, permissions already given for felling of trees have been kept under suspension till a fresh review, while no new sanctions for felling are being given till all other options to save the trees are exhaustively examined. (It may be recalled that the GHMC Commissioner, following our protestations after the cutting of the Banyan Tree outside the US Consulate, has issued orders stopping tree felling within the limits of GHMC).

We visited both the routes along with senior officials of the forest department, and engineers from the radial roads division of the R & B department. We found that with some imagination and concern for conservation of trees, it is possible to conserve the trees while widening the roads to the prescribed width. These two roads were studied on a sample basis and a successful experiment of widening these stretches without felling the trees could surely be replicated for the remaining 32 radial roads, given the will.

In general our suggested line of action for the Forest department is as follows:

• Examine re-alignment of stretches of a road , while maintaining its prescribed width, to save trees/ tree lines. This should be possible in many cases with or without acquiring new lands. The Forest department, as implementing agency of WALTA should independently examine this aspect and not simply rely on a certification by the concerned project authority. . Outside experts may also be engaged for the purpose, if necessary.

• Where realignment is not feasible, and some trees have to be removed, they may be relocated to a location as proximate to the site as possible. Technology and local expertise is available for such purpose, and a panel of such experts and the rates of payment to them should be finalized without delay.

• Where the above options are not feasible, and only in the rarest of rare cases, can some trees be allowed to be felled. Such trees should, however, exclude trees of native species, such as banyan, tamarind, neem, etc., and may include trees like rain trees, trees recently planted, etc.
• In all cases, where felling is permitted, prior plantation of trees of the matching species, in a location as proximate to the site as possible, must be ensured. Preference should be given to plantation of native trees, fruit bearing trees which attract birds. The maintenance of the new plantations must also be ensured.
• It should be insisted that all project authorities should incorporate the conservation of the existing trees located in their project area/circuit, as an integral part of their project planning, and submit such proposal sufficiently in advance to the Forest department. This should be quite possible, as all projects are conceived much before their actual implementation starts. The position as of now, on the contrary, is that these project authorities approach the Forest department at the last moment which builds pressure upon them to sanction lest a project gets delayed, without examining all other options. In fact, some officials admitted that they had never considered earlier any other options to tree felling.
• Finally, we consider that a committee approach should be adopted for examining applications for felling of trees, and advise the designated implementing official. Such a committee should include experts and concerned NGOs, in addition to the officials.
We are available for any further discussion in the matter.

Yours Sincerely,
(VEDAKUMAR .M)
President, Forum For A Better Hyderabad.
Date: 4.07.2008
To
THE CHIEF SECRETARY,
Government of Andhra Pradesh
Secretariat,
HYDERABAD.
Dear Sir,
Save the trees
We refer to our earlier letter dated 19.5.08 on the subject expressing our concern at the widespread felling of trees in the twin cities, due to lack of forward planning and concern for tree conservation. In that letter we had also given some concrete suggestions for conserving existing trees without affecting development work.

Road widening
Since the date of our writing the above-mentioned letter to you, we tested on the ground the feasibility of our various suggestions to you. A major threat to trees comes from the widening of roads. We recently traversed two major routes undergoing road widening. One route was at Rajendranagar from Indra Reddy statue to Himayatsagar. The other route was the roads from Rathibowli to AP Police Academy and from Tipu Bridge to Kokapet junction, which are proposed to be widened to be connected to the outer ring road. We visited both the routes along with senior officials of the forest department, and engineers from the radial roads division of the R & B department. We found that with some imagination and concern for conservation of trees, it is possible to conserve the trees while widening the roads to the prescribed width.
These two roads were studied on a sample basis and a successful experiment of widening these stretches without felling the trees could surely be replicated for the remaining 32 radial roads, given the will.

In general our suggested line of action to the Forest department is as follows:
Examine re-alignment of stretches of a road, while maintaining its prescribed width, to save trees/ tree lines. This should be possible in many cases with or without acquiring new lands
Where realignment is not feasible, and some trees have to be removed, they may be relocated to a location as proximate to the site as possible.

Technology and local expertise is available for translocation of trees, and a panel of such experts and the rates of payment to them should be finalized without delay.

Where the above options are not feasible, and only in the rarest of rare cases, can some trees be allowed to be felled. Such trees should, however, exclude trees of native species, such as banyan, tamarind, neem, etc., and may include trees like rain trees, trees recently planted, etc.

In all cases, where felling is permitted, prior plantation of trees of the matching species, in a location as proximate to the site as possible, must be ensured. Preference should be given to plantation of native trees, fruit bearing trees which attract birds. The maintenance of the new plantations must also be ensured

Forest department must insist that all project authorities that apply for the removal of trees incorporate the conservation of the existing trees located in their project area/circuit, as an integral part of their project planning, and submit such proposal sufficiently in advance to the Forest department. This should be quite possible, as all projects are conceived much before their actual implementation starts. The position as of now, on the contrary, is that these project authorities approach the Forest department at the last moment which builds pressure upon them to sanction lest a project gets delayed, without examining all other options. In fact, some officials admitted that they had never considered earlier any other options to tree felling.

The Forest department should adopt a committee approach for examining applications for felling of trees, and advise the designated implementing official. Such a committee should include experts and appropriate civil society organisations in sufficient strength, in addition to the officials. For permitting felling of trees in a private premise also, instead of delegating the authority to a Forest ranger / MRO, a committee approach should be taken with participation from appropriate civil society organizations in sufficient strength.

Metro railway project and other projects.

The same approach for tree conservation as suggested in the case of road widening should be taken in regard to other projects including the Metro railway project. ( Except that for MRTP, change of alignment may not be possible – so transplantation will have to be considered.) A census of trees that would interfere with the projects of various departments/agencies of the government (such as flyovers, metro rail project, BRTS, laying of telephone lines, electricity cables, water/sewerage pipes, high rise and commercial buildings, R&B, underground cables) should be made at the same time when these projects are planned, Each concerned agency should be required to make a detailed plan for conservation of existing trees in their project area as an integral part of their project planning. These plans and projects can be identified from a careful study of the master plans of HUDA, GHMC, HMDA, SCB, etc.

Freeze permissions for Review: All existing permissions given/ received for tree-cutting by different departments be frozen and re-examined afresh by a committee because till now no options were at all considered other than tree felling. A multi -department task force may be formed to examine all cases, for saving the trees that fall in the way. The committee should include experts and representatives from civil society in sufficient strength. GHMC commissioner has already issued instructions to freeze sanctions received/given by it for cutting of a tree in its jurisdictional area, and appointed an expert committee to re-examine. Forest department, too, has suspended its sanctions given earlier, and are not issuing fresh sanctions till all proposals are re-looked and all options examined. Suitable instructions to this effect may be issued under your authority to all other concerned departments of the government and other bodies regulated by the government, such as: HUDA, HADA, SCB, HMDA, MAUD, panchayats, all municipalities in the state, etc .

Awareness about Green Laws: WALTA, other related Acts, GOs etc. should be widely publicized through advertisements and leaflets so as to create community consciousness of the laws and modalities to protect the trees. Simultaneously, the local MRO’s - who are the field level govt. authorities for receiving information officially - name, contacts should be publicized. Road widening /HMWS&SB /Electricity /Telephone /R&B / Underground cables/HUDA plans that involve possible cutting/transfer of trees – to be made public knowledge.

Police/ other authorities may be instructed to officially back the vigilance of trees by citizens

Other Problem Areas

There is a definite absence of proper co-ordination among the regulatory authorities for these activities so that roads are being dug again and again, widened and re-widened, divider on roads created and then removed, trees are planted and then uprooted again.

Similarly, enforcement is hopelessly lacking by GHMC/HUDA/SCB so that building regulations are violated as a normal practice, specially by those who have money power and political backing. To plant/nurture trees should be made mandatory in new localities, institutions, corporate offices, public/private buildings, along the roads, in parks, SEZs, MNCs, private layouts etc. Provisions for these exist in municipal laws but these are not enforced.
There is need for coordination and enforcement.

Enforcement of WALTA

The A.P. State Water, Land and Trees Authority ( section 3 of WALTA) needs to be active and functional, and frame and implement proper guidelines. It is also responsible to guide and make functional the District, Division and the Mandal Authorities. Unfortunately, they are not so as of now. We look forward to you as the Vice Chairman of the State Authority to take immediate suitable action to make both the State Authority and the other level Authorities functional and effective.

We are available for any further discussion .

The following organizations express concern:

• U-FERWAS (United Federation of Residents Welfare Associations) • Greenabad Group, Initiative of TOI. • SAVE ROCKS SOCIETY • COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Association) • CHATRI (Campaign for Housing and Tenurial Right ) • WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature India) • INTACH. A.P. Chapter (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) • SPEQL (Society for Preservation of Environment and Quality of Life) • APNAWATAN • NAPM (National Alliance for People Movement)• Coalition for Peace and Harmony • Concerned Citizens • Turaga Foundation • Right to Walk Foundation. • URTI (United Federation of Right to Information Act) • GAMANA.
• CHELIMI Foundation. • Hyderabad Greens Society • Children’s Educational Academy. • PUKAR. • Hyderabad Action Group. • Ham Sub Hindustani Trust. • Uma Nagar Residents Welfare Association. • Citizens For Better Public Transport

Yours Sincerely,
(VEDAKUMAR .M)
President, Forum For A Better Hyderabad.
 
Date: 10.6.2008
To
The District Forest Officer,
Hyderabad District
Aranya Bhavan, Saifabad
HYDERABAD
Dear Sir,
Sub: Cutting of trees opposite Home Minister’s residence at Kundanbagh
A high rise apartment is coming up at Kundanbagh, opposite the Home Minister’s official residence. As per the board displayed in the compound, this will be IAS Oficers Quarters, with cellar + stilt+ 7 floors, with 45 quarters. The contractor is B. Ramarao & Co , Flat no 202, Srirama Towers, 5-5-30, Kukatpally, Hyderabad – 500072, Tel no 23161533, fax no 23081739.

We found one large tree has been cut, only its bare trunk still remain. The other tree cut was is on the border, close to the wall, and could have been easily spared.

We have already taken up with the State Chief Secretary, and the Conservator of Forests to stop further felling of trees, no fresh permissions to be given for tree cutting by any department, and permissions already given will not be acted upon. The GHMC Commissioner, in response to our request, has suspended all tree cutting earlier permitted till all cases are re-examined. The response from the Chief Secretary and the Chief Conservator of Forests is awaited. There are still some more large trees in the compound. We request you stop cutting of further trees in the compound and either ask the builder to plan construction by skirting around the trees, or transfer the trees to another location inside the compound, irrespective of cost. Please also rescind/ suspend permission, if any, already given for cutting of trees in that compound, till our requests to the State Chief Secretary, and the Conservator of Forests are disposed of. You may please defer the matter because a tree once lost is lost forever.

Please also advise us what alternative compensatory plantations have been made or are proposed to be made in lieu of the trees cut in the compound; whether the species , the size, and the carbon-absorbing capacity of the compensatory plantations match the trees cut. Please also advise us where the compensatory plantations are being made, whether they will be proximate to the location of the trees felled.

We trust you will appreciate our point of view and save these trees. We are available for any discussion.

Yours Faithfully,
M.VEDAKUMAR
President, Forum For A Better Hyderabad
Mobile: 9959922022
 
 
 
Date: 22.5.2008
To
Sri. P Ramakanth Reddy, IAS.,
Chief Secretary
Government of Andhra Pradesh
Secretariat
HYDERABAD
Dear Sir,
      Sub: Save the trees
It may have come to your notice that a few days back, a 200-year old banyan tree was chopped ruthlessly in front of the proposed US Consulate. While the bare trunk of the Banyan tree stands there today, thanks to public uproar, 32 other Ashoka trees could not be saved and were completely destroyed in the same place.

The felling happened allegedly at the request of the US Consulate for security reasons. While the authorities are very well aware that consulate will be housed in the heritage structure of Paigah Palace temporarily and will move to Gachibowli in the near future, they have granted permission for the felling of trees without batting an eyelid. The GHMC sought permission and the forest authorities cordially and readily granted it.

The banyan tree, which has immense carbon-absorbing capacity, stood as a characteristic landmark, a symbol of life at the location. Sadly, the authorities have obviously failed to explore other options, such as relocating the tree, or skirting around just a little bit to widen a road as they do in the case of a religious structure.

One wonders whether the US authorities would have either sought or granted permission to touch a branch, leave alone a 200-year-old tree, in their own country, under any circumstances.

Not the First Instance

Earlier, a large number of trees, running into tens of thousands, were cut off in various parts of the city, such as Jubilee Hills, Banjara Hills, Begumpet, Rajendranagar, etc., for road widening, for activities by various wings of the government and also by builders, with or without proper permission. Once again, without consulting any experts or examining any other option, because it is evident there WERE alternatives

Hyderabad is, at present, going through several development projects such as, road widening, metro rails, BRTS, laying of cables, drainage and sewerage systems modernization, as also rapid building activity, high-rise apartments, commercial complexes, shopping malls, etc.

It has also happened in several cases that trees have been planted after a road widening, and after some time, these trees were felled due to a further road widening. This adhocism and lack of advanced planning for a sufficiently long term must stop.

Problem Areas

There is a definite absence of proper co-ordination among the regulatory authorities for these activities so that roads are being dug again and again, widened and re-widened, divider on roads created and then removed, trees are planted and then uprooted again.

Similarly, enforcement is hopelessly lacking by GHMC/HUDA/SCB so that building regulations are violated invariably, specially by those who have money power and political dadas. There is no hope for a minimum quality of life.

How About Action Before It is Too Late?

Hyderabad is fast losing its green cover and the quality of the environment, which should cause concern, specially in the context of global warming, to one and all. Wide roads, glittering malls, multi-storied apartments, huge cars, are not going to save lives when water sources are choked, greenery is obliterated and there is no clean air to breathe! Paupers and the rich will be equally devastated in such a setting.

All these are happening because of lack of advanced planning, and for not adopting a model of sustainable development. A model that, on the one hand, develops infrastructure and, on the other, promotes environment in the affected areas!

Our Constructive Suggestions

We, alongwith several concerned persons and organizations, have applied our minds and have the following suggestions to make with regard to the conservation of trees in and around Hyderabad.

• Simultaneous Project and Tree Planning: An advanced planning for conservation of trees that would interfere with the projects of various departments/agencies of the government (such as those for road widening, flyovers, metro rail project, BRTS, laying of telephone lines, electricity cables, water/sewerage pipes, high rise and commercial buildings, R&B, underground cables) should be made at the same time when these projects are planned. These plans and projects can be identified from a careful study of the master plans of HUDA, GHMC, HMDA, SCB, etc.

Thereafter, of the trees that would interfere with the projects, some trees can be transplanted, for others compensatory plantations can be taken up well in advance, and proximate locations of compensatory planning earmarked as such, as essential part of the planning for these projects. This would ensure that replacements of the right species and age are ready if and when a tree has to be removed. As of now, compensatory plantations are supposedly taken up after a tree is felled, not matching with the species or age of a tree, or consideration of its carbon-absorbing capacity.

• Felling of a tree must be a last resort. Alternatives such as transplanting to another location, irrespective of cost, culturing from its branches ( as possible with a banyan tree), which practice is adopted in other cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, etc; skirting a road around a tree, as done for sensitive religious structures, must be considered first.

• Study of Alternatives Imperative: At present, application for cutting a tree is made at a very junior level of a department. Permission for cutting a tree is given liberally by the forest authorities, and such sanction is given at a lower level of authority, e.g., a forest ranger. Accordingly, proper screening is not done, alternative options are not called for, nor examined and it becomes easier for vested interests to exercise pressure for permission. We suggest, a decision to apply for permission to cut a tree, and a decision to grant permission to cut a tree, be taken at a sufficiently high level of the concerned authority.

All alternative options should be called for and
examined. Further, a committee or committees at different levels/depending on the gravity of a decision, be appointed with participation from appropriate civil society organizations in sufficient strength, to examine a request for a tree-cutting – this will reduce the effect of pressure by vested interests. The decision-making should also be recorded for scrutiny by a higher level authority.

• Freeze permissions for Review: Pending the finalization and adoption of a suitable procedure on the suggested lines, all existing permissions given for tree-cutting by different departments be frozen. GHMC commissioner has already issued instructions to freeze sanctions received/given by it for cutting of a tree in its jurisdictional area. Suitable instructions to this effect may be issued under your authority to all other departments concerned of the government and other bodies regulated by the government, such as: HUDA, HADA, SCB, HMDA, MAUD, panchayats, all municipalities in the state, etc .This may delay a developmental activity, but the alternative is to lose a tree forever. A letter from Commissioner, GHMC, and the other above bodies to all field functionaries should be issued to coordinate with Residents’ Welfare Associations, and other appropriate forums that may be formed to save trees.

• Open Declaration of Statistics: Information on the number of trees cut, the departments cutting such trees, the compensatory plantations made as required under WALTA, should be published, starting from a given year, so as to check the matching of plantations with the trees felled, in terms of the number, age, species, survival for more than three years, of the plantations, and the proximity of their locations to the locations of the felled trees.

• Awareness about Green Laws: WALTA, other related Acts, GOs etc. should be widely publicized through advertisements and leaflets so as to create community consciousness of the laws and modalities to protect the trees. Simultaneously, the local MRO’s - who are the field level govt. authorities for receiving information officially - name, contacts should be publicized. Road widening /HMWS&SB /Electricity /Telephone /R&B / Underground cables/HUDA plans that involve possible cutting/transfer of trees – to be made public knowledge.

• Effect of METRO project on trees – needs to be spelt out and informed to public prior to project launch

• Underground cables to replace overhead cables so that trees do not have to be cut.

• Police/ other authorities may be instructed to officially back the vigilance of trees by citizens.

• People’s role in New Plantation: To plant/nurture trees – to be made mandatory in new localities, institutions, corporate offices, public/private buildings, along the roads, in parks, SEZs, MNCs, private layouts etc

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
(M.VEDAKUMAR)
President, Forum For A Better Hyderabad
Mobile: 9959922022

Address:
”Chandram” 490, St.No.12,
Himayathnagar, Hyderabad

 
Date: 17.05.2008
To,
Sri. K.S.Rao, I.F.S., Date: 17.05.2008
The Principal Conservator of Forest,
Govt. Of Andhra Pradesh,
Aranya Bhavan, Saifabad,
Hyderabad.
Sub: TREE FELLING AT RAJENDRANAGAR- REQUEST TO STALL THE ACTION-REGARDING
Sir,

FORUM FOR A BETTER HYDERABAD has come to know that the tree-felling has been taken up to widen the road from Indra Reddy statue to Himayatsagar. The exact location is on the left side of the road from the Indra Reddy statue junction to the Rajendra Nagar police station. The works are taken up by the Roads and Buildings department with the permission of the Forest Department. The chopping is carried out by a contractor and it is clear that there are at least 20 more trees under threat immediately. The Forum for a Better Hyderabad team went for a site inspection and noted with distress that so far seven huge Banyan Trees, at least more than hundred years old each, have been chopped mercilessly and even burnt from the roots so that there is no hope left for their sprouting leaves again.

It is deplorable that the forest department has given the necessary permission to cut the trees. This belies the very purpose of its existence – which is the protection of tree cover. When the Tree, land and water act was passed, its purpose was to apply utmost scrutiny to any cutting of tree, to ensure that a cutting takes place when all options are exhausted, and in such cases, to ensure compensatory plantation of 3 saplings per each tree cut. Purposively, such authority was vested in the forest department. All these rules and the intention of the ACT have been violated by the total non-application of mind by the concerned forest authorities.

In the first place, widening of the road from Indra Reddy statue to Himayatsagar was not necessary as the existing width of the road is quite sufficient for vehicular traffic. Further, there is land available on the right side of the road, belonging to the University and could easily have been acquired to make a double lane with the trees forming a central divider. And the road would have been a beautiful, shady, tree-lined avenue. The forest department should not have given permission to cut the trees, unless these options and other options were examined by the authorities seeking permission.

In a rather similar situation, concerning the Banyan Tree outside the US Consulate, the GHMC Commissioner responded promptly and definitely, issuing significant orders stopping tree felling within the limits of GHMC. Though GHMC is not involved here but the R and B dept. is felling the trees in the limits of GHMC. It is our hope that the R and B, the Forest Department and the Ranga Reddy district administration will respond similarly like GHMC by taking a positive action to save our city.

FBH and the Civil Societies of Hyderabad further demand from the forest department that :
• Further felling of trees along the route be stopped immediately by issuing a blanket ban on felling of any tree
• The procedure for giving permission be streamlined, the discretion to give permission be vested in sufficiently high authorities in the forest department and any extraneous pressure to extract permission be firmly resisted. The process of taking a decision be minuted, with all facts.
• Locality-wise committees be formed with citizen’s groups to scrutinize any request for felling of a tree. In every case, all alternative options to save a tree must be explored. As a rule, a tree, when it needs removal, must be relocated rather than felled, as is happening in Mumbai, etc. Technology is available and the cost of relocating should be of no concern for saving a tree.
• Large, old trees which have large carbon-absorbing capacity, e.g., a banyan tree, have to be treated on a separate footing, and compensatory plantation ( 3 to 1) cannot compensate the cutting of such trees. This must be kept in mind.
• Compensatory plantation must be near to the site where a tree is cut, and must match the type, size of a felled tree.
• Forest department must demand from the authorities connected with road widening, metro project , drainage, laying of cables, etc, i.e., which may affect the existing trees, to advise their plans sufficiently in advance to the forest department so that the latter can plan relocation of trees, replacement where necessary of trees of the same species, same size, etc

(VEDAKUMAR .M)
President,
Forum For A Better Hyderabad.
The following organizations express concern:
COVA, U-FERWAS, TURAGA FOUNDATION , CHATRI, GAMANA, IFHD, APNA WATAN , CONCERNED CITIZEN’S FORUM, UMANAGAR RESIDENTS WELFARE ASSOCIATION, FAPSCO, HUMSAB HINDUSTHANI TRUST, CEA, COALITION FOR PEACE & HARMONY, RIGHT TO WALK FOUNDATION, CHELIMI FOUNDATION
Copy to:-
1. M. Dana Kishore , I.A.S., The Collector, Ranga Reddy Dist.
2. Sri. Naveen Mittal, I.A.S., The Collector, Hyderabad Dist..
3. Sri. K. Jawahar Reddy, I.A.S.,V.C, HUDA.
4. Dr. C.V.S.K. Sharma, I.A.S., Commissioner and spl. Officer, G.H.M.C.
5. Sri. M.J.akbar, D.F.O,Hyderabad & RangaReddy Dist.
6. Sri. Hanmanth Reddy, M.R.O., Rajendra Nagar, RangaReddy Dist.
image
 
 
Date: 15.05.2008
PRESS RELEASE
TREE FELLING AT RAJENDRANAGAR
The axe falls again. Now it is in Badwel village in Rajendranagar of Ranga Reddy district, which ironically is home for the Agricultural University and the National Institute for Rural Development and many other premier institutions that research and promote development of greenery.

The Forum for a Better Hyderabad team went for a site inspection and noted with distress that so far seven huge Banyan Trees, at least a hundred years old each, have been chopped mercilessly and even burnt from the roots so that there is no hope left for their sprouting leaves again.

The exact location is on the left side of the road from the Indra Reddy statue junction to the Rajendra Nagar police station. FBH has come to know that the tree-felling has been taken up to widen the road from Indra Reddy statue to Himayatsagar which is not necessary as the existing width of the road is quite sufficient for vehicular traffic. The works are taken up by the Roads and Buildings department with the permission of the Forest Department. The chopping is carried out by a contractor and it is clear that there are at least 20 more trees under threat immediately.

It has been observed that there is land available on the right side of the road, belonging to the University and could easily have been acquired to make a double lane with the trees forming a central divider. And the road would have been a beautiful, shady, tree-lined avenue.

In a rather similar situation, concerning the Banyan Tree outside the US Consulate, the GHMC Commissioner responded promptly and definitely, issuing significant orders stopping tree felling within the limits of GHMC. Though, GHMC is not involved here but the R and B dept. is felling the trees in the limits of GHMC. It is our hope that the R and B, the Forest Department and the Ranga Reddy district administration will respond similarly like GHMC by taking a positive action to save our city.

Why should trees be chopped when there are alternatives? Why is the Forest Department not even willing to consider the environment-friendly options and is belying the very purpose of its existence – which is the protection of tree cover? These are the questions that the FBH is seeking answers for, from the R and B, Dept of Forests and the Ranga Reddy district administration.
VEDAKUMAR .M
President,
Forum For A Better Hyderabad.
The following organizations express concern:
Concerned Citizen’s Forum
Humsab Hindusthani
Coalition For Peace
Apnavathan
Chatri
Gamana
Turaga Foundation
Right To Walk Foundation
CEA
Chelimi Foundation
 
Date: 8.5.2008

To
Dr.C.V.S.K.Sharma, IAS.,
The Commissioner and Special Oficer,
Greater Hyderabad Municipal corporation,
Hyderabad.

Dear Sir,

Cutting of a centuries old Banyan Tree in front of Paigah palace ( Old office of HUDA), now temporarily housing the US consulate.

Last Monday ( 5.5.08), a 200 years old huge banyan tree, was mercilessly axed except for its bare trunk, at the instance of the GHMC authorities on a request by the U.S.Consulate for road widening. Along with that 32 Ashoka trees within the approach road were also chopped off for a price of Rs. 50 each (see TOI report dated 6.5.08).

We do not know what precisely were the reasons for the GHMC to chop off these trees, in particular the banyan tree. If it was road widening, this cannot be a valid reason for chopping the banyan tree. With a little imagination and expertise the road widening plan could provide for skirting around such an ancient tree, which gives a character to the location, as is done in the case of religious structures. Unfortunately, GHMC’s decision in the instant case not merely reflected a lack of these qualities, but this decision and their earlier actions re cutting of trees also exhibit a dangerous trend toward insensitivity and violence toward nature, while they propagate a clean and green city, and an indifference to public sentiments. The GHMC never cares to consult the civil society organizations on these difficult issues, although they have enough time to do so as road widening plans are not made in a day but over months and years, and the planners would precisely know the blocks to road widening much in advance. Instead, they prefer unilateral action doing irretrievable damage to the environment.

Nor can the US Consulate’s request be a valid reason for GHMC’s precipitate action. After all, the US Consulate is housed only on a temporary basis at Paigah palace So, their wishes should not have led to the felling of the banyan tree. If the US Consulate considered the banyan tree and other trees as security risk, they should have been asked to move elsewhere or adopt other measures for security in this age of technology In this connexion, we would like to know your plan about the trees inside the compound of the US Consulate. We insist that these must be protected, and If the US Consulate requests for the removal of these trees also, on security risk, such a request should be firmly declined.

As per report, permission to fell the Ashoka trees was obtained by GHMC from the forest department because the latter had planted the Ashoka trees, but who gave the permission for felling the banyan tree? We demand to know whether permission was obtained from the proper authorities. In fact, the GHMC should not have applied for such permission. The banyan tree is on a special footing because of its age and for giving a character to the location. Its loss cannot be compensated by planting of 3 saplings It should have been saved

A banyan tree is considered as a keystone species and cutting this down is equivalent to cutting down an entire ecosystem. An ecosystem may experience a dramatic shift if a keystone species is removed, even though that species was a small part of the ecosystem by measures of biomass or productivity. It has become a very popular concept in conservation biology. With the available know-how, one can try to transplant the cut tree to other suitable locations. Just planting 3 saplings in place of one tree cut does not bring the life attached to the cut tree back.

With global warming coming up on the State Governments agenda, urban trees can be good carbon sinks as well

We demand to know the full facts of the case. In particular,

- Who arranged the cutting of the banyan tree
- whether permission was obtained by them from the proper authorities for felling the banyan tree
- Whether any alternative plan for road widening by skirting around the tree was considered by the GHMC? Why were the civil society organizations not involved at all in finding a proper solution in this matter?
- What plan of action does the GHMC have in regard to the conservation of trees on roads proposed to be widened? Whether they propose to engage suitable expertise for a balanced planning and whether they propose to bring such issues into the public domain for wide discussion?
- Whether GHMC will have compensatory plantation of saplings in the same area where the trees have been cut?
- Whether the GHMC consider such integrated planning necessary in the wake of global warming
.
We condemn the tree-cutting unequivocally and demand action against the persons responsible and adequate preventive action for the future.

Thanking you,
Yours sincerely,
(M.VEDAKUMAR)
President, FBH
Mobile: 9959922022
c.c: 1. Sri.A.Raghottham Reddy, IAS., Chief Secretary, Government of A.P., Hyderabad
2. Sri.K.Jawahar Reddy, IAS., Vice Chairman, HUDA, Hyderabad
3. Sri.G.Ashok Kumar, IAS., Managing Director, HMWS & SB, Hyderabad
4. Sri.A.K.Goel, IAS., Principal Secretary, Energy Department, Govt.of A.P., Hyderabad
Encls: 1. Press Release in English & Telugu
2. News paper coverage.
 

Date: 7.5.2008

PRESS RELEASE
Protest rally against the cutting of a centuries old Banyan Tree in front of Paigah palace ( Old office of HUDA, now temporarily housing the US consulate)

Last Monday, a 200 years old huge banyan tree,, was mercilessly axed except for its bare trunk, by the GHMC authorities at the request of the U.S.Consulate for road widening. Along with that 32 Ashoka trees within the approach road were also chopped off for a price of Rs. 50 each (see TOI report dated 6.5.08).

Road widening cannot be a valid reason for chopping the banyan tree. Road widening plan could provide for skirting around such an ancient tree, which gives a character to the location, as is done in the case of religious structures. With a little imagination and expertise, this could have been done. Unfortunately, these type of decisions not merely reflect a lack of these qualities, but also exhibit a dangerous trend toward insensitivity and violence toward nature. Further, the authorities never consult the civil society organizations on these difficult issues, they have enough time to do so as road widening plans are not made in a day but over months and years, and the planners would precisely know the blocks to road widening much in advance. Instead, they prefer unilateral action which is irretrievable.

Nor can the US Consulate’s request be a valid reason for GHMC’s precipitate action. The US Consulate is housed at Paigah palace on a temporary basis only. Their wishes should not have led to the felling of the banyan tree.

As per report, permission to fell the Ashoka trees was obtained from the forest department because they had planted the Ashoka trees, but who gave the permission for felling the banyan tree? We demand to know whether permission was obtained from the proper authorities. In fact, the GHMC should not have applied for such permission. The banyan tree is on a special footing and its loss cannot be compensated by planting of 3 saplings It should have been saved

We propose an independent fact finding enquiry by some eminent persons, to find out:

- Who arranged the cutting of the banyan tree
- whether permission was obtained by them from the proper authorities for felling the banyan tree
- Whether any alternative plan for road widening by skirting around the tree was considered by the GHMC? Why were the civil society organizations not involved at all in finding a proper solution in this matter?
- What plan of action does the GHMC have in regard to the conservation of trees on roads proposed to be widened? Whether they propose to engage suitable expertise for a balanced planning and whether they propose to bring such issues into the public domain for wide discussion?
- Whether the GHMC/ appropriate authorities consider such integrated planning necessary in the wake of global warming?

(VEDAKUMAR.M)
President, FBH
The following organisations are taking part in the Protest Demonstration:

COVA –WWF - Apnavatan - CHATRI - Hum Sub Hindustani Trust - Concerned Citizens - Turaga foundation - Forum for Sustainable Development (FSD) - Hyderabad Action Group - Children’s Academy - Right to Walk foundation. - Citizens for a Better Public Transport in Hyderabad – Coalition for Peace and Harmony

The individuals who expressed concern:

Dr.P.M.Bhargava – Sri.Narendra Luther - Dr.Kulsum Reddy – Prof.C.Ramachandraiah - Mrs.Bharati Surya Rao - Sri.Sajjad Shahid

 

Urban Forestry and Parks

The Parks and Forestry in urban areas are specifically meant to be lung spaces of the area. The urban forests, unlike reserve forests, are essentially meant to be recreational areas, apart from acting as 'Carbon sinks' for CO2. As the living spaces in cities become more cluttered, as rapidly increasing urban vehicular population contribute to higher levels of air pollution and as concrete jungles continue to replace natural ones, these urban parks will be of increasing relevance.

In most of the developed countries, one does not have to drive very far out of a highly industrialised city to be in carefully tended dense woods. The high-rise Singapore, is remarkably green, because of a deliberate policy ruthlessly enforced by the government, for the design and development of parks and greenbelts to be the lungs of the city. In our cities, which are either deprived of lungs or whose lungs are being damaged, we have to travel long-distances to escape from "City Life" to "Nature".

Hyderabad, once a city of gardens, is now left with only five major parks and about 240 small parks spread over various localities. The per capita recreational space available in MCH area works out to 0.50 square meters against the national standard of 3.00 square meters. The adjoining 9 Municipalities and other peripheral areas have no such parks. The new layouts being developed, including Madhapur area in which "Hi-Tech City" is located, do not seem to pay much attention for design and development of the required lung spaces.

The draft Hyderabad Master Plan-2011 prepared by HUDA in 1994, proposes to have 12 square meters per person, for recreational use by the year 2011. HUDA proposes to reserve about 9 sites for development of larger regional parks in different parts of the city, in addition to creating several local level parks, through the process of layout development and plotted development schemes. But unfortunately most of the proposals have not been grounded even after a lapse of six years and one of the sites earmarked for regional park, at Sahebnagar Kalan Tank Area (L.B. Nagar) has already been encroached for development of a housing colony. It is hoped that under Indo-Dutch greenbelt development programme for 2000-2004, the urban forestry and greenbelts will get the required priority.

The Public Gardens in the heart of city has become a concrete jungle, serving as a grim reminder of so called development and there is a danger of "Sanjivayya" and "Indira" Parks meeting the same fate in the name of fancy projects such as Necklace Road, Tourism Project, State Museum, Food-Courts etc. in the park areas. The space earmarked for NTR Gardens is being converted into a Museum, I-max Theater, Amusement Park, Machan Tree, Parking lots etc. The KBR National Park in Banjara Hills is being systematically encroached and reduced in area.

The small parks in MCH area are grossly neglected, misused and are being encroached both by government agencies and private parties. A Power Distribution Transformer, MCH Dust Bin, Milk Vending Centre, Vegetable Stall , Community Hall, Temple, etc., are so invariably associated with the parks that a stranger might feel that there cannot be a park without them. The status report submitted by the 3-member committee, appointed by Hon'ble A.P. High Court, giving the status of about 240 parks in MCH area and making recommendations for their development and maintenance, submitted four years back is gathering dust in MCH office. Now in the year 2001, MCH is talking of developing parks and handing them over to Residents Welfare Societies for maintenance, which is a welcome if implemented sincerely.

There is no short cut to enrich the 'Quality of Life' in Hyderabad Metropolitan Area, other than providing adequate lung spaces, green belts, and recreational areas at least to an extent of 12 square meters per person as proposed in the Draft Master Plan of HUDA. The existing parks, playgrounds, green belts and open areas should be guarded, protected and preserved by not permitting the change of their land use under any circumstances. The Urban Areas Preservation of Trees Bill should be brought into force immediately by promulgating an ordinance, if necessary.

HUDA has done a good job in developing green belts along the roads and in some of the open spaces. Extensive tree plantation should also be undertaken around the lakes, on the hillocks, in the valleys, along the banks of Musi River, other open spaces and recreation zones by involving the neighbourhood community groups. The people, with their active involvement and participation, should learn to recognise that these parks, recreation spaces, and greenbelts as their own and they should protect them with all the care. The large regional parks are to be developed at various locations of Hyderabad Metropolitan Area, while ensuring that the required recreational open spaces are provided, protected and maintained, in approved layouts and schemes.

The Hon'ble A.P. High Court, in its landmark judgement against the use of Indira Park and the Buddha Purnima Park (NTR gardens), for cremation of the mortal remains of the two former Chief Ministers of the State, made three significant observations.

Firstly, the city's parks and other open spaces are hopelessly inadequate and the city is already breathing less than the required breath and further depletions of the lung spaces, by acts of the state, will make breathing more difficult. Secondly, the State Government have acted without jurisdiction as well as with malice in law, in permitting disposal of the dead bodies of late Sri N.T.Rama Rao and late Dr. M.Chenna Reddy in the public parks and have violated the rights of the petitioners and others under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India and restrained it from converting parks to any other use.

And thirdly, the domain of the State Government in deciding in respect of the use of a public place one way or the other is taken away by the 74th Amendment of the Constitution and Article 243W(a), therein read with the List in the Twelfth Schedule. The State Government acted illegally in interfering with the statutory and constitutional domain of the self-government under the Corporation Act and the Commissioner of the Corporation has abdicated jurisdiction.

But unfortunately, the State Government, ignoring the well-being of the citizens and in utter disregard to the High Court's observations, is going ahead with its plans to convert and encroach areas earmarked for recreational purposes such as parks, playgrounds, green belts, water bodies etc., in the name of tourism projects and other development activities unmindful of their long term adverse impacts on the quality of life

 

KBR National Park

A National Park is a wilderness area (and also declared) so called for its ecological and geomorphological significance. It is not a park like others in the city. KBR National Park (earlier known as Chiran Palace Gardens) is the genuine wilderness area in the twin cities. Fortunately it has remained in that condition upto 1990's even as a private reserve. It discharges the ecological function of preserving bio-diversity i.e., conservation of flora and fauna which comprise several species of plants some of which have yet to be studied for their taxonomic qualities and even as germplasm for sustainable human use. The fauna includes a tremendous diversity of birds which include species like drongos, partridges and also hares, snakes, pythons etc. The micro faunas are even more significant. The dragonflies, butterflies, earthworms, ants and other invertebrates like scorpions, centipedes and others which keep churning the soil and helping retention of the moisture.

This Park is right at the top of the most significant catchment in the heart of the city, which is helping surface charge of the streams emptying into Banjara and Hussain Sagar Lakes. The nature of the vegetation and absence of paths and gullies in the park which could carry the water away has helped the water charges into streams even in summer month. Equally significant is the role of this Park and its vegetation in recharging ground water of the area through humus and top soil. This is giving much needed relief to citizens living in an area without major water resources.

In this background, opening up of the Park for regular walking and recreation results in compacting of these surfaces by allowing water runoff instead of conservation. It further interferes with most of the activities of the living creatures including termites which turn over the earth and arrests overgrowth of vegetation which can conserve water and promote genetic exchanges even better. The damage to the ecology of this Park would become greater as the number of walkers increases. Most of the walkers are rich and upper middle class people and if they take interest in developing other parks (small and big) in different localities, there would be plenty of greenery in the twin cities. The KBR National Park can be conserved as a protected groove of our state.

This Park has been struck by another tragedy, this time from the Government of Andhra Pradesh. In the name of widening the adjacent road into an express highway and creating a separate road for walkers, thousands of square metres of the Park area all along the outer margin is being converted into concrete and metal. This is perhaps the biggest damage to a National Park done by any government in recent years in Andhra Pradesh.

When the Government wants to initiate such changes in land use (that have serious adverse implications for environment of the city), a proper study of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and an Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) should be conducted by taking the citizens, NGOs, intellectuals etc., into confidence. It is unfortunate that such measures have not been followed in this case.

 
Thick greenery being destroyed for making an Express Highway
Courtesy: The Hindu

BIRDS OF THE HYDERABAD AREA
Siraj A. Taher

In the past Hyderabad City and its environs had always been known for a moderate and pleasant climate, large houses and gardens, ponds and lakes and open areas. This attracted birds, both migratory and resident. In the days of the past it was a common sight to see ducks on a lake as you drove down' a dusty suburban or district road or be rewarded with a covey of partridges or a brace of quails picking up the grains that had fallen from a bullock cart. In the right seasons, early morning or at dusk, one could see a large flock of Rosy Pastors over flying or a snipe being flushed out from a rice field. The call of the night jars was a pleasant lullaby at night and children were warned not to venture into the open with food in their hands or else the kite might swoop and snatch it away. Even the mother hen would keep a watchful eye on its newly hatched brood of chicks.

While the crow would be calling out from a tree branch, looking for thrown-away food, or even a dead rat, the pigeons and doves could be seen feeding on the grain lying on the ground after the winnowing was over. Alas! Most of that is gone now. Even though many birds can still be seen in and around Hyderabad City, their habitats are fast dwindling. The creation of parks, protected areas and zoos has helped in creating small niches for many species of birds which otherwise may have disappeared.

It is possible to see about 200 odd species of birds in Hyderabad City and its surroundings (in a radius of about 35 Kms.) during the migratory season (October to February). This is because their numbers are augmented by the presence of the visitors, especially at the water bodies. At other times in the year about 100 -120 species could be noted. House Crows, sparrows, doves, pariah kites, common mynahs and red-vented bulbuls are faily commonly seen but in the open areas and gardens, one could see the sunbirds (both purple and purple-rumped), white-headed babblers, munias and during the right season (around April;'" June) the magpie robin. While the large pied wagtail is not uncommon at small garden ponds or tanks, the migratory Grey Wagtail is quite often seen from September / October to March. The lakes, ponds and paddy fields around the city always attract the pond heron and Little Egrets.

Open fields are the places one can hope to see the Black Drongos in flight catching insects and so also the Small Green Beeeaters sitting on electric wire and looking for their food from a vantage point. If you have the patience and good eyesight, you may sight sparrow-like birds on the ground or in chirping in flight or quiet on the while feeding. These are the Larks or the Pipits.
Go a little further to the lake front and you are rewarded with a most wonderful sight hundreds of ducks, several egrets and herons and some small waders. The ducks could be the migratory brahminy or the smart looking Pintails or the local species like the large Spotbills or the small Cotton Teals. Yes, you may see the Spoonbills, the Grey Heron or even the Whitenecked Stork, but one can always see a pheasant-tailed or a bronzewinged jacana and surely some coots also and the Little Grebes and the moorhens especially ifthere is vegetation in the lake.
Swifts and swallows are a common sight over the ponds and lakes or even over the fields, flying in flocks, swooping low and hawking insects in flight or may be having a drink of water. Kingfishers (white-breasted, pied or small-blue) are reasonably common at the waterbodies and also the small waders like the sandpipers which are normally seen in one's and two's.
The large protected areas around Hyderabad - Mahavir Harin Vanasthali, Jawahar Mrugyavani Park, Chilkur deer park and the Brahmananda Reddy National Park (within the City), the Nehru Zoological Park, Public Garden, Sanjivayya Park and Indira Park are places where one can see hundreds of varieties of birds, both resident and migratory.

The Koel is the most well known of birds around here but the pied crested Cuckoo, which has an uncanny sense of arriving with the south­west monsoon, and the Plaintiff Cuckoo are equally well noticed. Who has not seen the India Robin, the small black bird with a white patch on its wing and its brown colored female? The Spotted Owlet is heard more often than seen but the Red-wattled Lapwing is as conspicuous as. It is heard. If one is fortunate to have a good and large garden, with tall trees and bushes, then you can see and hear the call of the Coucal or Crow­Pheasant. None can forget the sight of a white bird with a black head with a long white tail tailing behind -it is the Paradise Flycatcher.

The fluty calls of the Tree Pie may awaken you in the morning or even the cooing of doves or the noises of the roseringed or the blossom-headed parakeets at the guava tree. To be more informed and involved, take the trouble of joining your local bird club and use the field trips and expertise of the members to both enjoy as well as learn about the fascinating world of birds. Watching birds is neither difficult nor time-consuming, nor expensive. All that one needs is a desire to learn, patience, good observation and curiosity. You can do this from your own house, at a park or the nearest lake, garden or zoo.


 

FOREST CONSERVATION

- By C. Sarvotham Rao, IFS., (R)

God has been extremely kind to humanity. Among his various gifts to man, forests, (both Flora & Fauna - Plants & Animals) are the most important. All civilizations were born and developed in the forests. Our Vedas, the gospels which our great Rishies & Saints enunciated from their forest schools - the gurukuls. Ours is basically an agricultural country where more than 80 percent of people follow this profession. More than 6 Crore people, comprising various forest tribes, live in the forests in total harmony with Nature. These tribal people mainly depend on the forest produce, like bamboos, cane, various nuts, fruits, gums, resins, Beedileaf and other leaves and a variety of medicinal herbs. The value of the Forest produce collected annually in our country is about Rs. 30,000 (thirty thousand) Gores. A large quantity of aromatic grasses, roots & tubers economically useful are also found and collected from our forests. Both the people and their cattle who reside in villages and towns who live near forest areas are totally dependent on the forests for fire wood, grasses, building and hutting materials the grass and leaf for the roof of their huts, edible fodder for their cattle. A large number of cattle graze in the forests, although in the process damaging the forest soil and forest vegetation.

Trees have been considered holy and are associated with many aspects of Indian religious, social and cultural Life. Special mention should be made of Banyan (vata vriksha) & Peepal (Ragi). Banyan is almost an eternal tree, giving expansive shade and shelter, as well as yielding fruits used as food by innumerable birds, monkeys and other smaller animals. There is mention of this tree in Yujurveda and Atharvaveda in which it is referred as nyagrodha, the name (Vata) gets mention from times of Valmiki Ramayana.

Peepal is venerated and considered holy as it is associated with Budha and Dakshina Murthi. It is referred in the Vedas and Bhagvadgeeta. It can be said that there is no village in most parts of India, ' where anyone or both these trees are not found. A number of other trees, Awala, Neem, Mohwa Shami etc., are venerated and many fables and folklores have grown around them.

During the 19th Century, in our country, Forests were considered as in-exhaustable and hence extensive forest areas were cleared, for cultivation and other purposes. Huge timber trees were felled for ship building, Railway carriages and Railway sleepers; for use in mines, as Electric & Telephone transmission poles and for other similar industrial use.

It was only in 1952, that forests were recognized as a form of land use under the National Forest Policy. It was stipulated that at least 33 percent of total land area in the plains and 60 percent in the hills be preserved under cover of forest vegetation. It was realized by the Government that forests and forest produce support about 50 percent of country's population. About 400 million poor lands less people including tribal mostly depend for their livelihood on forests and forest produce.

Inspite of all efforts, due to increasing population, and increasing agriculture, great damage has been done to our forests in the last 50 years. At present only about 75 million hectares i.e., about 22 percent of land area is under forests which is far less than 33 percent enunciated in our national policy. The latest aerial photographs give further alarming picture, indicating that hardly 46 million hectares i.e., about 14% of land area contain productive forests, with reasonably good vegetative cover (1995-96). A fully grown natural forest, when reduced to below 60 percent of tree density, ceases to perform its ecological function, like soil protection, conserving ground water by protecting & stopping the rain water and making it soak into the ground.

The foundation of all healthy human and animal life is clean air to breathe, and potable water to drink. Forests are responsible to help this very foundation for human life support system. Felling of tree growth creates a chain reaction and directly and indirectly has adverse effects on the eco­system. The food, fuel and fodder resources get reduced, the soil erosion increases, reducing the water retention capacity of rain water and increase the extent of degraded lands. Millions of tonnes of top soil is eroded from the mountain sides every year, during the rainy season causing floods and choking the arable lands in the plains. Little water is retained in the soil leading to reduction in levels of ground water reservoirs. This is the main reason as to why the wells dry up and the water level in the bore wells in the cities are reducing at an alarming rate. The loss of soil moisture results in crop failures and misery to farmers. The extent of degraded land in the country is estimated to be about 175 million Hectares.

Forest trees in addition to providing timber, fodder, fuel, wood & fruits give shade, cool the atmosphere, arrest dust & absorb noise. They also yield gums, tannins, barks, fibre etc. Trees are relentless factories, engaged in converting the polluting gases like carbon-di-oxide and give out oxygen (Pranvayu) by the natural process of Photosynthesis.

Nature is beautifully and delicately balanced. Each little life has its own place, duties and special utilities. It is an excellent interlinked chain of life support system. Any disturbance breaks the entire chain, resulting in untold misery and destruction to humanity. Felling of trees in hills, results in extensive floods, causing great damage to life and property. The area affected by annual floods in India has progressively increased from 15 million Hectares (in 1951-52) to about 40 million Hectares. Each year it is estimated that annually about 6000 million tones of precious top soil is lost due to floods and is carried away to the ocean.

All this degradation of productive soil, help conditions for advance of deserts and waste lands. Government has identified such waste lands, in about 146 districts in 19 states and declared them as drought prone areas. These waste lands have since been aerially photographed. It is proposed to afforest the waste land, to yield at least 30 million tones fuel wood and 220 million tones of fodder and grass for the cattle in next 10 years. This additional production of nej2ded fire wood and fodder outside the forest area is expected to reduce the pressure on the forests and forest produce of the country.

Forests are not a mere collection of trees, but a definite biological entity and an eco-system of numerous living organisms; bacteria, insects and smaller animals, with interaction between the plants, the animals, the soil and the environment.

As per world standards, India needs about 0.47 Ha. of Forest area as compared to the available 0.11 Ha. We have there-fore to afforest at least three times more area and add it to the existing forest area.

From ancient times, in India, fire wood has been used by human beings as an energy source for cooking food and for other purposes. All over the world about 2 billion (2000 million) people depend upon fire wood as a primary energy source. In our country about 30 percent of total energy is still obtained only from fire wood.

To meet this growing demand of fire wood, social forestry programs were started in our country as a major government effort to reduce the pressure on forest areas. Natural resource needs to be treated with care for sustained economic development.

However the survey done in 1989 and 1991 have indicated that there is slow but steady growth in the area under forest vegetation.

It is for all these reasons; all the citizens of the country must protect the Forests. Trees should be grown because they bind the soils on hill sides and thereby reduce erosion. Trees, in addition to yielding various economic products, protect agricultural fields and crops from desiccation due to hot winds. Trees & Plants recycle nutrients found in the under ground, and make them available, to plant growth. Nitrogen fixing trees act as natural fertilizer factories, by absorbing nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it in the soil.

For all these reasons it is necessary to conserve the forests and once again make our country flow with milk and honey, full of trees, to provide flowers, fruits, timber, fuel wood, fodder and other economic products.

Under the 8th Five Year Plan, it was proposed to afforest 18 million Hectares (Ha.) as compared to 8 million Ha achieved during the 7th Five Year Plan. The 9th Five Year Plan (1997-98 to 2002-03) has ended. We will have to wait for the report about how far the prescribed targets have been achieved.

Common Tree Names Used                                          Botanical Names 

1. Vat-Banyan                                                                      Ficus bengalensis

2. Peepal                                                                                Ficus rliglosa

3. Awala (Anwala)                                                             Phyllanthus Emblica Emblica Officinalis

4. Mahwa                                                                              Bassia Litifolia

5. Neem                                                                                  Melia Indip

6. Shami                                                                                 Prosopis Spicigera

 

 ***

 
 
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