• PM urged to help stop felling of trees

  • SC shifts focus from CNG to safety

  • Five funerals and a rainforest festival

  • PM urged to help stop felling of trees


    LUCKNOW: Tree lovers and environment-friendly residents of the city on Thursday finally knocked at the doors of Prime Minister Vajpayee and faxed him a six-page petition urging him to stop “irrational cutting of trees in the city in name of road widening and development”.

    The residents, mostly of Indiranagar locality, while welcoming the widening of roads and development have drawn Vajpayee’s attention to the fact that most trees being cut “did not even fall in the road plan”.

    The residents have written: “While there is general appreciation from the public for the work, at the same time we feel irritated and disgusted with the manner in which the work is being undertaken”.

    In the widening of the ring road, they point out, not a single tree is being spared by people involved in the execution of the work.

    It has been pointed out that no provision is being left for re-plantation of trees.

    The planning now requires judicious approach which could only be done if the PMO intervened on their behalf.

    The emotional plea also exhorts Vajpayee “as a poet and a kind hearted person” to act promptly and redress their problem.

    Absence of timely intervention, they add, “cause problems for hundreds and thousands of residents in the prime minister’s parliamentary constituency”.

    The residents have already met urban development minister Lalji Tandon earlier this week in this regard. Tandon, however, had expressed his inability to help them since “the whole project was being funded by the Centre”.

    The axe earlier this month had fallen on more than 325 trees for widening of the road on a six kilometre stretch on the Sitapur road near the Pucca Pul. The felling of the 300 trees, some as old as 100 years, had raised a lot of heat and dust.

    The project is considered “VVIP” in the corridors of power here since it forms part of the ‘dream project’ of Vajpayee — the Golden Quadrilateral and the the NW corridor, parts of which would pass from the state capital.


    SC shifts focus from CNG to safety


    NEW DELHI: Shifting focus from the CNG, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued a series of directions to prevent fuel adulteration and inquired from authorities about steps taken to ensure safety of passengers and school children.

    On an application from the petrol dealers, a three-judge Bench comprising Justice B N Kirpal, Justice V N Khare and Justice Ashok Bhan asked the Environment Protection Committee headed by Bhurelal to appoint an independent agency to conduct surpirse checks at oil depots and tankers for adulteration.

    "Bhurelal Committee should appoint an agency who would independently carry out random and surprise inspections at petrol pumps, oil depots and oil tankers in Delhi and give a report to the court by December five on the quality of petrol and diesel available there," the Bench said.

    Turning its attention to several fatal accidents on the Delhi roads in the recent past, the Bench wanted to know from both the Centre and Delhi Government whether there had been any plan to make fastening of seat belts mandatory for the occupants of cars.

    The Delhi government submitted that it has already sent a proposal making fastening of seat belts in car mandatory. The Bench asked the Centre as to when this would be made mandatory initially for the front seat occupants and later for the rear seat occupants.

    The court, referring to its earlier order on traffic management in the capital, asked the Delhi Police to "file an affidavit giving status report with regard to implementation of earlier orders regarding traffic regulations and safety of children travelling in school buses."

    The court also issued notice to Centre, Delhi government and the Delhi police relating to banning entry of those buses and trucks into Delhi which use the capital roads for transit purpose.

    The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on December six while asking all concerned to file their affidavits on or before December five.

    On the seat belts issue, when additional solicitor general Mukul Rohatagi sought time to respond to the query from the court, the Bench observed "You want few more poeple to die on the roads!"

    However, Delhi government informed the Court that they have already sent such a proposal to the ministry of surface transport but have received no response on that.

    However, the city government said that it would enforce fastening of seat belts by the occupants of a car if the apex court so observed.

    The Bench asked "for all such things why do the authorities need a direction from the court? Can't they do it on their own."


    Five funerals and a rainforest festival


    JOYPUR, Assam: There was a five-minute silence for five dead elephants. But that was the only sad aspect of a week-long festival which celebrated life of a different kind — of 800 sq km of rainforests, the last remaining contiguous stretch in Upper Assam spilling over to Arunachal Pradesh.

    The rainforest festival, the first of its kind in the North-east, began last Saturday to spotlight attention on several vanishing species in Assam's very own patch of the Amazon: like the Hoolock Gibbon, the clouded leopard, the sloth bear, and the Indian bison.

    Take the gibbon, the only ape species to be found in India: while in 1972 the Zoological Survey of India estimated Assam had 78,000 to 80,000 of them, now there are just 5,000.

    Disappearing rainforests are a global phenomenon. About 3,800 acres are lost every minute. Yet, despite the dismal data and a speeding train which rammed into an elephant herd crossing a rail tract between Bogapani and Digboi stations, the festival was upbeat.

    Once Assam's minister of state for environment and home, Pradyut Bordoloi, fittingly led 3,000-odd people — including top Dibrugarh district administration officials, international and national delegates and locals — in mourning the deaths at the festival's inauguration, the music and arts that have emerged from the rich rainforest tracts began.

    Manisha Gupta, director of Ashoka India which supported the event, said it was a massive success, with activities ranging from open meetings to street dramas, from exhibitions of tribal products to ethnic dances.

    Environmentalists, rainforest defenders, human rights activists, ethnologists and wildlife experts — many of them from abroad — also descended on the festival, one objective of which was to highlight nationally and internationally the fragile status of rainforests in the North-east. Rainforests occur wherever the annual rainfall is more than 80 inches.

    "Rainforests once covered 20 per cent of the earth's land surface — now, they're less than 7 per cent.

    In Assam, the situation is equally alarming — vast stretches of these forests in Upper Assam have shrunk to the minimum due to industrialisation and population," laments Soumyadeep Dutta who convened the festival under the banner of Nature's Beckon.