Modi govt cuts down more than 1 crore trees in 5 years for ‘development’, plans to fell more

The Congress on Saturday attacked the government for allowing the cutting of over 1 crore trees for development projects since 2014 as the party wondered if the “BJP is destroying our future”

Modi govt cuts down more than 1 crore trees in 5 years for ‘development’, plans to fell more
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Without realising the crisis of climate change, the Modi Government has between 2014 and 2019 cut down more than 1 crore mature trees in name of ‘developmental works’.

The Congress on Saturday attacked the government for allowing cutting of over 1 crore trees for development projects since 2014 as the party wondered if the "BJP is destroying our future".

"Trees are 'life'. Tress are 'oxygen'. Tress absorb 'carbon dioxide'. Trees protect 'environment'. Modi Govt has cut a whopping 1,09,75,844 trees in the past 5 years! (Parliamentary Reply)," Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.

He also posted the Environment Ministry's reply in the Lok Sabha that it permitted cutting of over 1 crore trees in the last five years for development work.

"Is BJP destroying our future?" he asked.

In response to questions asked by Ravi Kishan and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, the minister of state in the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, Babul Supriyo said the government cut down 1,09,75,844 trees between 2014 and 2019. In fact, the highest number of trees were felled in 2017-2018 (25,52,164) and 2018-2019 (26,91,028).

Supriyo added, “Trees are felled for various development purposes with the permission of competent authorities in accordance with the procedure laid down. However, Ministry does not maintain data regarding the cutting of trees due to forest fire.”

Criticising the government, environmentalist Manoj Mishra points out, “This is shocking to say the least. This shows the lack of respect we have for trees and that is why we are cutting down trees. This kind of loss is irrevocable and cannot be compensated. Even if the government officials say that they are compensating this loss by planting saplings, it won’t suffice.”

Slamming the government policy of compensatory afforestation over an equal non-forest land or double the degraded forest land whenever forest land is diverted for non-forestry purposes, Mishra said this process is misplaced, contentious and problematic.

“What they usually cut down are natural forests and what they are creating is an artificial plantation. To say that this will compensate for the trees cut down is erroneous. These artificial plantations will not ‘compensate’ even after two decades,” adds Mishra.

“The role of mature trees is far more urgent in the light of carbon sequestration. This role is carried out by mature trees far more efficiently than saplings. Even if the saplings do process carbon, they will take another decade or so to do it efficiently. We do not have the luxury of time in the face of climate change. This fact needs to be put in the minds of politicians. We are in an emergency. Mature trees should not be felled at all,” insists Mishra.

“This government doesn’t care much about the environment. To put it in perspective, the proposed Ken-Betwa project linking will lead to the felling of 4,46 crore trees. Early, this month the government approved the Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh. This falls within forest land and would lead to the felling of more than 3,00,000 trees,” underscores Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

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Published: 27 Jul 2019, 1:01 PM
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