GUWAHATI, Nov 15 – King Ashoka the Great realised the importance of planting and preserving trees by the roadside way back in second century BC. Those at the helm of the State’s affairs today think otherwise, as nothing else explains the wanton felling of a number of big, shade-giving trees by the side of the PWD road at Jawahar Nagar, Khanapara, on the pretext of road widening.
The dozen-odd trees had been there for decades, providing shade to the commuters on the road and checking atmospheric pollution. The sudden felling of the trees has not gone down well with the local residents who feel that the authorities betrayed their sheer insensitivity by removing the trees for widening the road.
“It was possible to widen or blacktop the sides of the road without cutting down the trees. At a time when the entire world is waking up to the grave dangers of deforestation, it was sheer foolishness on the part of the authorities to cut down the trees under the grab of road widening,” M Goswami, a resident said.
While the government authorities keep on talking of a green Guwahati, creation of adequate open spaces, parks, and provision of lung spaces in the city, the irony is that the sanctity of environmental norms is violated for vested and short-term interests at the first available opportunity.
“Rather than going for the hasty and easiest option of felling trees for widening roads, the authorities should explore wiser, environment-friendly and more futuristic ideas which can help preserve the city’s depleting tree cover,” another resident said.
Road construction policies the world over put utmost emphasis on having trees by roadsides for absorbing heat, carbon-dioxide and other pollutants. Trees effectively reduce air temperatures, filter dust and pollution, and provide shelter to many birds and small animals.
The recent widening of the GS Road near Dispur and Rukminigaon avoided felling of the roadside trees. The side of the road was blacktopped keeping the trees intact. Such an approach could have been adopted in widening the Jawahar Nagar road, which has far less vehicular traffic.
It is to be noted that widening of roads is not always the judicious answer for easing traffic congestion. With technological innovations, more emphasis is being put on evolving an integrated strategy with due emphasis on varied aspects of traffic management measures including metro, monorail, underpasses, parking lot, etc.
Guwahati had been unique in being blessed with a green landscape with a good tree cover, forests, hills and water-bodies. Unfortunately, the natural heritage is being pushed to the brink in the face of the onslaught of unbridled urbanisation. Thoughtless road widening projects will undermine the city’s priceless natural heritage and it is time the authorities acknowledged the importance of preserving roadside trees for maintaining the city’s ecological health.