Whenever we cruise on a highway, we test how fast our cars can go, we complain about heavy toll, we boast how early we reached our destination. But not even for a moment we spare a thought on how the highway might have been constructed.
All over India, road construction/widening invariably involves chopping off trees. Big ones at that. Because our forefathers thought it will be nice to have shade giving trees by the roadside, they planted hundreds of trees, which used to be adjacent to the roads. But when roads had to be widened, these speechless trees were easy target.
|Notice the space carved out for additional lane- there were lots of trees here|
A sensible planner would have kept them as median and would have build roads on both sides of it. But that would face even tougher challenge, since it means destroying houses and buildings constructed by the roadside. So almost all the times, trees are cut. There's a bigger timber lobby behind the scene which buys these trees in auction and sells them off for hefty profit.
I had to witness all these myself, as NH17 (now NH66) which passes through our village was getting widened. Earlier the drive was fairly scenic with trees on either side, now it looks extremely plain and bland. Earlier, while going from Udupi to Kundapura (or other towns on the highway), we could see outside and identify where we are, based on buildings. Now all roadside buildings and trees are gone and we have to struggle locating the village.
Below are some photos of the giant trees that were cut and left on the roadside. I should have photographed the roads with trees before these were cut (say during my previous visits). But the beauty of trees were no natural and we were so used to it, I never felt the need to take a photo. If only I had taken few photos of how good the roads were with the trees, it would have helped understand how harsh we have been, in quest for development.
|One of the yet to be cut trees|
It hurts to see these massive destruction. Life of villagers also changes with multi lane highways. Crossing the road is now life and death question.
-One has to cross the road fearing getting hit by high speed vehicles.
-For evey turn, several additional kms have to be traveled, more money on fuel.
-Roadside businesses fail, as people cruise on highway and hardly stop to buy anything.
If there're trees near the road in your village, take their photos now. We don't know when they will be cut off. Karnataka government is planning to widen highways and introduce tolls.
But this brings us to a challenge- how to ensure growth without spoiling the environment. Few options I could think of are listed below, pls add your thoughts
- Keep the trees in the centre, build additional lanes a little away. This way trees serve as median, providing shade as well.
- Instead of widening, build a parallel road through a path which minimizes tree cutting
- Elevated highways (not practical for 100s of kms, but can be tried in areas where too many trees have to be cut)
-Encourage RORO (Roll on, Roll Off) on railways. Vehicles can be loaded on the train and taken to next big city- this saves fuel and reduces burden on roads- watch video below