Ghaziabad’s green lungs dying in face of garbage onslaughtJune 17th, 2009 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS
By S.P. Singh
Ghaziabad, June 17 (IANS) Green activists call it mass murder. Thousands of trees in a forest patch that serves as the green lungs of Ghaziabad are dying a slow death because of negligence of the very civic agency that had once helped create it painstakingly.
Unauthorised dumping of garbage, sewage water, unabated fodder collection and forest fires have led to this mass murder of trees in the Sai Upvan of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, say green activists and residents alike.
The forest area covering over 200 acres was developed by the municipal corporation during 2002-2005 . It boasted of 200,000 trees, including fruit varieties and those with medicinal properties like peepal, neem, jamun, pilkhan, kanakgandha, amaltas, guava, mango and Kathal.
But around 30,000 of these trees have vanished, say activists.
“Sai Forest was developed as a model forest. Two hundred thousand trees were planted then with joint cooperation among NGOs, senior citizens, and other members of society,” social activist and municipal councillor Rajendra Tyagi told IANS.
“The trees have been trying to withstand forest fires, garbage and sewer water for the last few years. They are surviving just because it is a highly fertile area adjoining the Hindon river banks.”
“The forest was equipped with 20 gardeners, five pumps and seven tubewells. But today there is hardly anything on the site,” Tyagi added.
Vijay Pal Singh Baghel, an environmental activist, has announced he will launch a massive agitation against the “mass murder” of the forests of Ghaziabad and will go to the Supreme Court if need be.
Ironically, it was the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation that had helped develop it seven years ago at a cost of over Rs.40 million. Then municipal commissioner Ram Bodh Maurya had launched the ambitious project.
It was part of efforts to provide green lungs to the polluted city. It was also developed to bring an end to the losses incurred by producing vegetables in the area.
But today the trees stand submerged in a thick five-foot layer of the entire city’s sewer water which, in the absence of any other outlet, gushes directly into the forest.
Blatantly violating the Supreme Court’s orders, the municipal corporation has developed a vast garbage dumping ground in and around the forest. Officials openly admit that over 150 trucks dump the city’s garbage every day in the area.
Residents say this has been going on for the last two years. They also point out that 10 to five trees catch fire every day as employees of the civic agency burn the garbage in the open.
A Supreme Court order clearly states that no non-forest activity can be carried out in a forest area of 15 acres or more. It further states that any plantation in an area of 15 acres or above automatically falls under the forest area, irrespective of its ownership.
The surviving trees are also in the close vicinity of the Indian Air Force (IAF) station at Hindon . And another apex court directive prohibits the setting up of any waste site within a radius of eight kilometres to avoid danger to aircraft around the IAF base.
An internal inquiry report submitted by the corporation’s horticulture department June 6 has admitted that the waste is causing massive destruction to the forest area. But officials continue to ignore the warnings.
A.K. Singh, head of the horticulture department, told IANS: “We are searching for an alternative site to dump the solid waste, although there is gross negligence on the part of our health department to start dumping garbage resulting in sewage water flowing into the forest.”
When asked who ordered that garbage be dumped in and around the forest and be burnt openly - leading to much damage to the trees - Singh only said sweepers started dumping it there themselves.
Significantly, nearly 100 acres around Sai Upvan has witnessed unauthorized constructions. Many of the trees are also being denuded by shepherds who use it as a source of fodder for their cattle.
(S.P. Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: fertile area, forest area, forest fires, forest patch, fruit varieties, ghaziabad, kathal, mass murder, maurya, model forest, municipal commissioner, municipal councillor, polluted city, river banks, rs 40, senior citizens, sewage water, sewer water, slow death, social activist