Ghaziabad: The "Sai Upwan" city forest in Ghaziabad is set to be flattened out and stripped of its green cover soon as the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) sets about the construction of an elevated road.
Ghaziabad`s only city forest has already lost nearly 70,000 healthy trees to garbage dumps, sewer spills, forest fires and rampant felling by the timber mafia.
Sai Upwan would soon be another 510 trees short as the GDA lays a 3.58-km Link Road between National Highways 24 and 58, of which a 2.7-km stretch will be elevated, cutting across 200 acres of the city forest.
This development is despite the status quo ordered by the Allahabad High Court on a public interest litigation filed by social activist and municipal councillor Rajendra Tyagi.
Although the high court had also ordered the local agencies to rectify the damage caused to the Sai Upwan, no improvement was observed in the condition of the forest.
"Any cutting of trees, or even any change in the present conditions, would amount to contempt of the high court. We have collected pictures of the present condition and have already filed those in court. The court would hear the matter shortly," municipal councillor Rajendra Tyagi said.
"Before felling any new tree, the authority should first conduct reforestation and plant the same number of trees that had died in Sai Upwan. In this case, an elevated road can be built without cutting any tree. And in case there is a dire need to cut any trees, they should plant ten times the number of trees felled," Tyagi said.
According to environmentalists, Sai Upwan is barely left with any trees at all. The forest has already lost around 70,000 of the nearly 1,50,000 trees earlier planted by the Nagar Nigam.
Local agencies have also drawn flak repeatedly from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), which has twice since 2009, directed the forest department, GDA and Nagar Nigam to restore the forest.
Akash Vashishtha, on whose complaint, the MOEF directed the state government to rejuvenate the forest, said: "All the agencies, including the forest department, are virtually sitting over the ministry`s directions. Any new cutting of trees would be resisted. All principles of land use planning are sidelined. This is reckless development without any consideration for local ecology."
"We would apprise the ministry again on the latest steps taken by the local agencies," he added.
Commenting on the issue, Divisional Forest Officer Joga Singh said: "We have received an application from the GDA for cutting 449 trees, for which they have also asked us to give them their evaluation. The total valuation of 449 trees stands at around Rs.1.50 lakh."