Tree felling

Bundelkhand region in Central India is spread over a vast area of 13 districts included in two states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In recent decades this region has increasingly been in news during to serious drought situations and water scarcity. A study some years back by a leading voluntary organization  Vigyan Shiksha Kendra pointed out that it is not so much the inherent shortage of rain and water as man-made factors which have contributed to water stress, and an important factor to blame is deforestation.

It is in this context that the recent or impending felling of trees for some projects has evoked a lot of concern. A diamond  mining project of Chattarpur district involves the felling of 2.15 lakh or 215,000 trees in Bakswaha forest area. There have been several pleas for protecting these trees.

Nearly 1.89 lakh or 189,000 trees have already been cut for the Bundelkhand Expressway Projects. This is the official estimate. Several activists told this writer that much of this could have been avoided and there was no compelling need for this very expensive project, keeping in view the much bigger priorities of reducing poverty and protecting environment in the region.

However even this huge loss of trees pales in comparison with  the estimated loss of over two million  (over 20 lakh) trees in dense and good forest area due to the construction of the highly controversial Ken-Betwa River Link Project in this region. According to some other estimates the loss of trees involved in this project may be even higher.

This loss is easily avoidable as the stated benefits of this river-link project have been questioned very widely. In fact it has faced a lot of local opposition as well as opposition from several environmentalists. Protests against this project go back to a decade or even more.

The widely scattered stone mining and crusher work in Bundelkhand region is also responsible for destroying a lot of greenery.

On the other hand the survival rate of trees in many publicized tree-planting drives is known to be very low. The choices of species also is often not suitable. Aerial spraying of seeds in some areas a few decades back led to spread of exotic thorny species which people regard as harmful as these retard growth of traditional species.

As wild animals cannot survive in depleted and ravaged forests, they move towards villages, leading to harm to crops and farm animals.

In fact the need for increasing green cover in Bundelkhand is now higher than ever before. As a study of weather trends in recent years would reveal, rainfall has become increasingly erratic. Rain often fails when needed the most by farmers. On the other hand rain and hailstorms lash out with fury at times when these are not expected and are harmful for farmers.

Hence total rainfall during a year may not be so deficient, but its distribution is such as to leave farmers in great distress. Bundelkhand has been much in news due to distress of farmers in recent years. This is worsened by high levels of inequalities and corruption.

In this context of the prevailing situation,  water conservation and the related need of protecting remaining trees and green cover are very important. Yet the authorities are unfortunately going ahead with projects which involve very large scale felling of trees.

Clearly there is compelling need for protecting trees and all should be done to check further thoughtless and extremely destruction of trees on a large-scale. With some effort, it is still possible to save well over two million trees from being felled here in the near future.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Trees for Children.



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