Depleting forest cover major issue in Himachal assemblyApril 13th, 2011 - 2:36 pm ICT by IANS
Shimla, April 13 (IANS) How green was my valley! The pretty mountain state of Himachal Pradesh may well soon be saying this with its green cover depleting at a rapid pace as thousands of trees are facing the axe to make way for colonies, hotels and hydropower projects and also falling prey to fungal disease.
The 40-day state budget session that ended April 8 was dominated by green issues with the opposition Congress attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party government for relaxing environmental norms. The house that saw 24 sittings adjourned sine die April 8.
The state government is trying to get a ‘green bonus’ from the central government for preserving the green cover.
The government has admitted in the house that more than 9,000 trees will face the axe for a hydropower project that is coming up in Kinnaur district. “As many as 9,621 trees, including 1,260 of deodar, would be axed due to the laying of the transmission lines by Jaypee Powergrid Ltd (JPL),” Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal told Congress member G.S. Bali in the state assembly.
However, Bali maintained many more trees were to be axed.
“As per my information, around 19,600 trees would be axed and these include thousands of fully grown deodars,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Vidya Stokes told IANS: “The government is hell bent on impairing the pristine nature by allowing private industrial houses to set up hydro-power and ultra-luxurious housing projects and opening universities. These projects have gobbled up thousands of trees.”
Proceedings in the assembly were disrupted March 18 by the Congress over the issue of cutting of trees by realtors in forest areas in Shimla and Kasauli.
Congress member Mukesh Agnihotri alleged that a housing project in Shimla forests was allotted to Bemloe Development and Infrastructure Company which recklessly axed a number of trees overnight.
He also questioned the government on permission granted to another colonizer, Karnal-based Optima Construction Private Limited, for setting up a housing project in the picturesque resort of Kasauli in Solan district.
“In both the projects, thousands of trees were axed,” he alleged.
An environment clearance proposal for a hydropower dam project that will quench the thirst of Delhi was also raised in the house.
In his reply March 11, Dhumal said: “Observations raised by the environment ministry regarding counting of trees and wildlife management plan would be completed soon and re-submitted to the ministry shortly.”
The fresh proposal was made by the government following objections raised by the environment ministry over cutting of 177,000 trees.
Another issue raised in the house was of fungal disease affecting thousands of willow trees in the forests of Lahaul Valley in Lahaul and Spiti district.
“It’s a serious issue. It’s mainly due to monoculture. The trees were found infected with a pathogen, cytospora chrysosperma, and giant willow aphid (pest),” said Dhumal.
Many trees are dying in forests due to change in climatic conditions, edaphic and physiological factors, admitted Dhumal, who also holds the environment portfolio.
During the last three years, the government has removed 8,09,017 cubic metres of various species of trees and 49,971 girth-metres of khair trees from the state.
A Punjab-based private professional university that is setting up a campus near Shimla is also accused of violating environmental norms.
“Environmental violations have been done by Rayat Bahra University in the construction of phase-II campus in Waknaghat (in Solan district),” Dhumal said in a written reply.
He said the university authorities flattened the hill by 10 metres against the permissible limit of 3.5 metres.
Dhumal told IANS that the government is sensitive to environmental issues.
“The state pollution and forest departments are keeping close tabs on environmental violations, if any. Impact of changing environment on climate is a serious issue worldwide. For this we have already announced (in the budget speech a decision) to set up a centre that will also carrying out research on receding glaciers,” he said.
A Rs.900-crore project for environmentally sustainable development has been sent to the World Bank, the chief minister added.
According to forest department estimates, over 9,000 hectares of forest land has so far been diverted to non-forest use. Of this, 7,000 hectares were used for hydel projects.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)
- Fungal disease hits willow trees in Himachal - Mar 08, 2011
- 9,000 trees to be cut in Himachal: Dhumal - Mar 17, 2011
- Congress disrupts Himachal assembly over tree cutting - Mar 18, 2011
- Depleting forests in Himachal worry green activists (April 22 is Earth Day) - Apr 22, 2011
- Congress extended favours to Jaiprakash Associates: Dhumal - May 07, 2012
- Judicial panel to probe Himachal land transactions - Jun 13, 2011
- Himachal assembly panel to review realty norms - Apr 06, 2011
- Fires ravage 20,000 hectares of Himachal forests in two months (With Images) - Jun 28, 2012
- Himachal to make law for confiscation of illegal property - Apr 08, 2011
- Development of tribal areas top priority: Dhumal - Sep 09, 2012
- No violations by private realtor in Shimla: Dhumal - Aug 29, 2011
- Blame game over Himachal power plant ordered to be razed - May 20, 2012
- Depleting water sources in Himachal worry locals - Jun 05, 2012
- Another Himachal dam project caught in logjam - Nov 04, 2010
- Protect Chenab river from onslaught, say Himachal villagers - Jan 30, 2012
Tags: bharatiya janata party, budget session, colonizer, congress member, forest areas, fungal disease, hydro power, hydropower project, hydropower projects, industrial houses, infrastructure company, kasauli, leader of opposition, opposition congress, party government, powergrid, prem kumar, pristine nature, rapid pace, state budget