Greens against cutting trees on widened roads

By G Srinivasa Rao

HYDERABAD: Even as the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) plans to go ahead with cutting the trees on widened roads, green activists are deploring the decision describing it as `unwise'.

To regulate the indiscriminate cutting of trees, the State government had issued a GO Ms No 49 (Forests & Rural Development) on Feb. 2, 1984, which states that a committee should be constituted drawing officials from MCH, forest department and a representative of the department seeking the cutting of trees. "The committee was active only for a brief period and now the public and government appears to have forgotten its existence," retired conservator of forests, A Sarvottam Rao, told The Times of India here. He resented the decision to cut the trees that were planted 20 years ago. "Trees start giving benefits only 20 years after they are planted. Many of the trees in twin cities were planted in 1970s and now they are regulating the soaring temperature," he said.

Two alternatives which the non-governmental organisation "Forum for Better Hyderabad" came up with were found to be impractical by the MCH. The forum contends that instead of cutting the trees, two-wheelers could be allowed to move on the widened portion of road. The second alternative is the translocation of trees to another site.

MCH additional commissioner (Traffic & Transport) P Ranadhir Reddy said that according to the international norms, the carriage way should be left free of obstructions. "We tried to retain the trees. But, at night, two-wheelers just get crashed. Except at some places where it is practical to allow the trees to remain, the trees on the widened roads will have to be cut down," he said.

However, MCH and urban forestry experts are differing over the translocation of trees. Sarvottam Rao, who was incharge of the urban forestry for several decades, said that a tree on the Raj Bhavan road was translocated in 1972 and it was not so expensive as the MCH officials say. "It is not a western concept. Emperor Jehangir did the same in Agra when he wanted big trees there. We did it on several occasions and can still do it working out the cost-benefit analysis," he said. The Hyderabad Urban Development Authority too had translocated trees at the NTR gardens.

Ranadhir Reddy said that the corporation was ready to accept suitable and low cost alternatives from any quarter. "If someone comes forward to translocate the trees within the budget earmarked for planting of new trees, we are in favour of it," he said.


Europe's dwindling forests under threat: WWF


BRUSSELS: Europe is becoming greener, but the quality of its forests is declining, threatening some of the Old World's native animals and plants, the World Wildlife Fund said in a report released Tuesday.

Using data compiled by environmental groups and U.N. agencies, the WWF estimated that Europe retains roughly 15-20 million hectares of pristine or near pristine forests, where animals like the wolf, bear, lynx, woodpeckers and owls live undisturbed.

But it warned that three-quarters of that pristine forest lies in European Russia. "The farther west one goes, the less there is," said Harri Karjalainen of WWF Finland, who edited the group's report.

About half of the pristine land in Russia is not protected against logging and other disruptive commercial exploitation, the group warned.

Even in western European countries like France, Germany and Italy, logging is common practice in protected areas like national parks, according to the report.

While Europe's tree cover has been expanding in recent decades, most of the new plantations have been stocked with conifers rather than original deciduous trees, offering very poor habitats for European forest-dwelling species, the report said.

In Germany's fabled Black Forest, for example, broad-leaved trees have declined from 77 per cent to 35 per cent, it said. Many species are threatened or have disappeared entirely in some countries; Finland is the only European Union country that still has flying squirrels, for example.

Duncan Polland, head of WWF's European Forest Programme, called on European governments to protect remaining old-growth forests "as a matter of urgency" and to link existing protected areas to create "viable networks" for threatened species.

In western Europe, 95 per cent of protected forests are less than 10 square km in area - too small in many cases for specialised species to thrive. "It's not a question of money, it's a question of political will," he said.

Tourism and recreation can coexist with protecting plants and animals if the forests are managed well, Karjalainen added.

"It's not about fencing areas off," he said. "They are open for people, but have to be clear that the No. 1 objective is biodiversity conservation." (AP)