Idrees Ali

Sindh Forest division loses thousands of trees to Srinagar-Leh transmission line

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Local residents, activists express anguish

Ganderbal, Sep 11: Environment Activists and local residents of Ganderbal have expressed their strong displeasure over cutting down of thousands of pine trees in Sindh Forest division for laying 220 KV Srinagar (Alastang)-Leh power transmission line.

Sources said thousands of forest trees are being chopped off in compartment number 22C and 23C in Yechama and Ganiwan area of Sindh Forest division in Kangan.

Expressing displeasure over cutting of ‘green gold’, Altaf Lone, an activist said. "It is heart-wrenching to see thousands of trees are being cut for the power project. Under the guise of development, the environment is being put in jeopardy. I am not sure if government has gone through environment impact assessment (EIA) process before sanctioning the cutting down of forests."

He said the act it will adversely impact the ecology and biodiversity of the forest. “It will take hundreds of years to compensate the damage,” he added.

Local residents said that their future generations are being robbed of the natural resources.

“Government now and then has been talking about sustainable development, but goals of sustainable development are ignored here,” they say.

While the State Forest Corporation is executing felling and cutting of trees in these and other compartments, sources in the corporation say about 20,000 cft timber has already been felled and around 92,000 cft will be felled after cutting down the remaining forests for the transmission line.

Total length of transmission line is 375 km and length passing through the forest area is 42.327 km, sources added.

Civil society groups in Ganderbal and Kangan have expressed serious concern over cutting down of trees.

In a statement issued here, the spokesperson of Civil Society Kangan said, “On one side, we talk of maintenance of ecological balance, preservation of natural resources and generation of awareness among people for afforestation but on the other hand state authorities are hell-bent to destroy these resources.

“The transmission line could have been aligned on the sides of Nallah Sindh in such a way so as to save forests and restore its charm and beauty. It seems a deep conspiracy to destroy our natural resources and eco-system. If deforestation of pine trees in the area is not stopped forthwith, we will launch a mass protest,” reads the statement.

According to sources, last year government had sanctioned use of 82.2539 hectares of forest land in Sindh Forest division for construction of 220 KV Srinagar-Leh transmission line by Power Grid Corporation of India. “Objective of the projects is to connect Ladakh region with the National Grid at 220 KV to meet electricity demands of the region,” they said.

Netizens are also expressing concern over the chopping of trees.

In a Facebook post, a netizen wrote, "We lost more than 700 trees in Yechama area of Kangan. It is painful because beauty of the area was only because of these trees."

When contacted Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sindh Forest division, Shabir Ahmad, said, use of forest land for the project is being carried out as per the Forest Conservation Act.

“Government has approved the use of forest area for the project. We have ensured minimum use of forest land. At some places there was no alternative for laying of the transmission line other than that of forest area," he said.

"There is provision of compensatory afforestation as well. If hundreds of trees are cut, thousand more will be planted. The executing agency has paid the compensation amounts," the DFO claimed.

 

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