Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trees cut for highway

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


magiceye said...

When will we ever learn??!!

Navaneethan Santhanam said...

Please suggest an alternative that will allow both the trees to stay and at the same time allow easy movement - for instance, if the road wasn't widened, the air pollution resulting from the stalled cars might offset any benefit the trees provide.

I personally hope that our cities and the country remain green and pleasant (I think trees have a huge role in keeping the average temperature low), but in some cases, cutting them down may be unavoidable.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Navaneethan: Thanks. I have updated the post with couple of thoughts on how to overcome this problem.

Deepak: Thanks for your comment

Vasudha Hande said...

We had childhood memories under those trees. On the way to school, under these trees we shared lot of stories,we imagined a tree bearing coins and notes instead of fruits, we played in the stagnant dirty water during rainy seasons, we hid behind trees when we wanted to avoid a friend and a lot more

Team G Square said...

Destruction in progress. Lets us see how long can we sustain such a development. One rule should be brought stating that for every x year old tree cut x no's of tree are planted and taken care till they become at least 1 yr old.

Nasreen said...

Thanks for sharing very useful thought.. Save tress.. Save nature..

Sanjay Tripathi said...

I myself have been thinking on these lines & writing a blog over the issue.The problem is our today's rulers don't think like Ashoka the Great,Shershaah Suri & Akbar the Great.Thanks for bringing the issue to fore.Wonderful Article.

Sanjay Tripathi said...

I myself have been thinking on these lines & writing a blog over the issue.The problem is our today's rulers don't think like Ashoka the Great,Shershaah Suri & Akbar the Great.Thanks for bringing the issue to fore.Wonderful Article.

3 star hotels in Dubai said...

Hi There,

Its sad to see that nature is destructed like this all in the name of progress. Man has turned blind and is ignoring the fact that we are created by nature and we are not creators. So its stupid to even thinking of doing something like this. But all said then done...
Thanks for enlightening us on the issue.

Fuad said...

brother this destruction in the name of development ... But then there is no way out .. commuting fast is mandatory today ... yes the pity is .. the villagers who stay around may feel like crossing borders for going on the other side of the road .. my concern here is .. the trees which are cut down and money is minted out of it are they balancing the ecosystem .. Govt needs to take initiatives of planting trees as well .. around the areas !!

My Unfinished Life said... wrote on a subject which I deal with professionally....

as an environmental planner who looks into Environment Impact Assessment of Projects.. I have dealth with so many road projects including National and State Highways...

Now, as per GOI rule, the number of trees cut during widening ..has to be counted and thrice the number of trees have to be planted on a site identified...and in most cases it happens...especially ADB and world bank are very strict on the follow up... however, coming to the more complex problem of old trees being cut, there is no easy answers to them..generally, it is avoided during design stage..but a lot of contractors get away with tweaking design citing a lot of reasons, also since thrice the number of trees have to be planted anyways!!

also in some states (like haryana) roadside after widening is transferred to forest depratment who then carry out roadside if you go to any state or national highway will beautiful road side trees all along...

Janit said...

I come from Gandhinagar and Mr Modi's security concerns meant that most low hanging branches and shrubbery was removed from beside the roads of the beautiful city. Of course, the Gujarat administration is very efficient and plantation in its place were done immediately.

But, we did loose some of the beautiful trees we loved.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts

MUL: Thanks for sharing your insights. Didn't know these things

Mysay: Lots of time local people protest, but eventually they are suppressed. I agree on difficulty in crossing the road

Sanjay Tripathi & Nasreen: Thanks