Save the Trees Being Cut in Gandhi's Name
Save the Trees Being Cut in Gandhi's Name
As part of a new development plan for Wardha in the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, roads are being constructed and widened all over Wardha. During this process, on a 6 KM stretch of road leading from Gandhi Statue in Wardha to Sevagram, 70 trees have already been cut,100 trees are slated for cutting, and hundreds more will be fatally affected due to construction-related activities. The Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti (वृक्ष बचाव नागरिक समिती) stands against the destruction of this tree-wealth, with the rationale for their opposition and their demands outlined below.
We, the undersigned, stand in support of the Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti, Wardha and reiterate their demands. We are requesting the Central, the State, the City and Municipal administrations to bring a stop to the cutting of trees in Wardha.
The members of the Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti have noticed the following salient points and have the following recommendations and requests of the administration:
1. The due legal and bureaucratic diligence required towards the approval of the cutting down of the 50-70 year-old trees on this road has not been fulfilled.
2. The due process to calculate the environmental value of these trees, and the assessment of the impact of cutting down these trees has not been fulfilled.
3. The impact assessment report of the widening of this road on civil society has not been made available to the public. Moreover, due processes by which the civil society could register its approval or dissent to this development project have been absent.
Harms Caused and Proposed Solutions:
4. Ecological importance of trees: We reject entirely the model of development that is not inclusive of the ecological significance of trees, and the close association between the plants and the humans. We are standing on the precipice of many anthropogenic environmental disasters due to our modern and misplaced ideas of development. The post-COVID-19 world will have to recognise the close association between the humankind and the non-human biodiversity around us. This committee requests only as much widening of the road as the trees permit. This means no cutting-down of the trees, and to conserve the standing trees without injuring them.
5. Securing existing trees and repairing the damage done: The width of the road, and the specific construction activities in the 2-metre radius around each tree should be done in consultation with the members of the Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti. The current construction activities include denuding the trees not only from one side but three sides. Moreover, these activities have been done within 1 metre of the tree trunk. This is likely to have resulted in about 80-90% destruction of the critical root mass of these trees. Even if not cut, the injuries sustained during digging and compaction would result in future mass mortality of the trees. As a solution, the exposed root mass of the trees has to be restored with soil and organic matter, without any soil compaction, in the two days following the construction activity. All the 70+ trees which were already illegally cut need to be immediately replaced by planting new trees. This needs to be taken on a priority basis given the monsoon season, which is favourable for plant growth. Preferably, a one- or two-year-old sapling needs to be planted instead of a juvenile, to ensure better survival. The Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti has the required expertise to provide consultation in this process. A synergistic effort can be fostered in this process between the administration and the civil society.
6. Safety of our Children: This road forms the mid-section of Wardha, alongside which exist many schools, colleges and residential areas. It has been amply proven by many studies in India and across the globe that road-widening cannot ensure the protection of citizens from accidents. If anything, the relationship is likely to be inverse. The wider the roads, the speedier the vehicles, resulting in a higher incidence of accidents, say the experts.
7. The essence of Gandhiji’s vision: This road should reflect simplicity, minimalism and sustainability – the very essence by which the world has come to recognize and value Gandhiji. The four-lane highway offers convenience for more vehicular traffic at the cost of destruction of nature. These are values in direct opposition to Gandhiji's legacy. Considering the heritage and historical value of the path to Gandhiji’s Ashram at Sewagram, please develop this road as शांति-पथ. Let शांति-पथ be the symbol of sustainability and pacifism. Let Wardha be recognised as a place of confluence of heritage, sustainability and modernism.
We sincerely request that these recommendations are acknowledged and implemented. We also request that Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti will be invited and involved in the future processes regarding the conservation of the trees on शांति-पथ as well as in other places in the city and the district. Finally, we insist that there are no further activities leading to tree-cutting and tree-injuring till a mutually agreeable solution emerges from the dialogue between the city administration and the civil society representatives of Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti, Wardha.
Signatories of Vriksh Bachao Nagrik Samiti, Wardha
Vibha Gupta, Magan Sangrahlaya
Murlidhar Belkhode, Nisarg Seva Samiti
Sushama Sharma, Anand Niketan School
Sanjay Ingale Tigaonkar
Dr. Sachin Pawde
Adwait Deshpande, Anand Niketan School
Dr. Vitthal Salve
Karuna Futane, Gram Seva Mandal
Vasant Futane, Gram Seva Mandal