This green cover is upsetting residents! (Letter from Punjab)
Mohali (Punjab), July 3 (IANS) At a time when the Punjab government has launched a comprehensive 'Greening Punjab' drive across the state, residents of Mohali town, adjoining Chandigarh, are upset over its green cover.
The horticulture wing of the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) is receiving scores of complaints from residents saying that the green cover is causing problems. The green cover in the town, designed on the lines of 'City Beautiful' Chandigarh, comprises medicinal plants which have become fully grown trees in the past over three decades.
GMADA executive engineer-horticulture Harbans Singh Dhaliwal told IANS: "We receive a lot of complaints every monsoon and winter season about these trees. During the monsoons, they fall during thunderstorms and cause destruction to property while during winter, these trees block the sunlight."
The sunlight blockade is a major problem for residents, especially for houses where elderly people live.
"For the elderly, exposure to sunlight is a must," Dhaliwal said.
H.S. Mand, a senior resident of Phase 3, said: "We want that the trees should be cut down after a particular height till a permanent solution is found for this problem."
Residents, after waiting for authorities to take action, sometimes take matters in their own hands.
GMADA sub-divisional officer Mandeep Singh told IANS: "The residents take permission to prune trees. But, when we go out to inspect the trees, only the tree trunks are left. They get most of the branches removed."
The residents mainly complain of three varieties of trees.
Terminalia Bellirica commonly called a 'Baheraa', Pterospermum Acerifolium called 'Kanak Champaa' by people here and Sterculia Alata, are the trees planted years ago to enhance the green cover of the Mohali region during the development years of the town in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"Over the years, the trees have grown big, attaining 40-45-foot height," Mandeep Singh said.
Mohali residents have been filing their complaints on telephone with the horticulture wing and even sending written complaints.
Local authorities have to tackle jurisdiction problems in dealing with the green cover. While some sectors and phases fall under GMADA, others come under the civic body.
"Sometimes we don't even know if we can deal with the problem. We don't know if a particular area, where the problem trees are, falls in our jurisdiction. Some residents just want the trees to be replaced," a GMADA official said, on condition of anonymity.
Dahilwal added: "We don't have sufficient funds and permission to make amendments (to the green cover)."
Even though the residents are eager to make the changes, the social activists and experts oppose the idea of the change.
Leading Botanist and Panjab University professor R.K. Kohli disagrees with the proposition of replacing the trees.
Kohli told IANS: "It's not the fault of the tree. If the tree is of medicinal value, there must be a reason why these trees have been planted. Neem tree is good but they (GMADA) should not plant it everywhere. There should be a proper plan and the planting should be done properly. The plantation should be site-specific."
Social activist Gaurav Chhabra accused GMADA of finding excuses to get rid of the tree cover in Mohali.
He suggested that GMADA should organise a public hearing on this issue.
"They see timber in trees and money in land," he pointed out, adding that an alternative plan should be found to deal with the trees.
Against the 33 percent forest cover norm for states, Punjab has a low forest cover of only seven percent. The 'Greening Punjab' campaign will see 400 million tree saplings being planted across Punjab in the next eight years.
(Japjeet Duggal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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