A thousand trees have been cut ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Odisha to create a temporary helipad here on Tuesday, leading to three government departments shifting blame on to one another, Indian Express reported.
The PM was scheduled to arrive in the state’s Balangir district for flagging off the inaugural run of a train on the Khurda-Balangir railway line before addressing a public meeting.
Balangir Divisional Forest Officer Sameer Satpathy told reporters that the trees had been cut without obtaining permission from the forest department. “When our staff tried to stop the cutting of trees, the site in-charge said that there had been strict instructions from higher authorities to make space for the helipad,” Satpathy was quoted as saying by Odisha TV. He valued the trees at Rs 2.5 lakh.
Biswajit Mohanty, an environmentalist, said that irrespective of the fact that a small patch of the plantation was cleared, “authorities were required to take due permission.” He said that once a plantation programme is started on a patch of land, “trees cannot be cut down without prior permission,” adding that a case should be filed against the officials who are responsible.
An inquiry has revealed that the cut trees were 4-7 feet tall and their survival rate was about 90%. Satpathy estimated that “trees between 1,000 and 1,200 have been lost.”
“It’s the PWD that can construct helipads. Railways do not carry out such activities,” a spokesperson for East Coast Railways was quoted by the Indian Express. PWD personnel, on the other hand, claimed they “had no idea” who cut the trees.