Curious tale of missing trees around Taj Mahal

March 2nd, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Agra, March 2 (IANS) A petition by Uttar Pradesh asking the Supreme Court’s permission to cut over 2,000 non-existent trees for a road widening project near the Taj Mahal has landed the state government in a soup. The court asked the Krishna Mahajan committee, which monitors the environmental impact and pollution related issues in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone, to file a report on the government’s plea to cut 2,322 trees on either side of the road between Kheria airport and the Taj Mahal.

The commission found that the area has only 100 trees standing and the rest have vanished without a trace.

“If there were no trees then why did the forest department move an application in the Supreme Court to seek permission to cut 2,322 trees for road widening?” Mahajan, a Supreme Court lawyer, asked.

“Let them explain where the remaining 2,222 trees are? They have to produce the plantation journal or whatever document they have. I don’t think they would be able to do that. These people take the court for a ride. But this time they are caught in their own tricks,” Mahajan told IANS.

The Divisional Forest Officer O.P. Singh, currently camping in state capital Lucknow, told IANS over the phone that preliminary study by his staff point to the fact that there were no trees in the area.

“No one from our department has cut the trees, nor have we given permission to anyone to fell the trees. But I have asked my department to carry out a physical counting which will conclude by Saturday afternoon,” he said.

The apex court had early January directed the state government to obtain an environmental impact assessment report before asking for permission to cut trees. The monitoring committee members then physically counted the trees left on the road and found their number to be around 100.

The state government and the forest department have to reply on the status of the missing trees to Supreme Court Monday.

Ironically on July 31 last year, Uttar Pradesh created a world record planting more than 10 million saplings in a single day, a feat recognised by the Guinness Book of Records.

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