Wanted: Saviour for felled trees in Jharkhand.

Source – telegraphindia.com

Remember the outrage recently when the Supreme Court stepped in after thousands of trees were cut in Arey, a suburb of Mumbai, for the Metro rail project? Now sample this: The Jharkhand forest department has still not been able to implement a high court direction from three years ago on transplanting trees cut for infrastructure projects.

The department has been struggling to complete the tender process to find an agency to undertake the task.

Concerned over mindless felling of trees in the name of development, Jharkhand High Court while hearing a public interest litigation in June 2015 had imposed a total ban on cutting of trees for widening highways.

The court had constituted a high-powered panel of lawyers and experts to study the present conditions and the need to cut trees for projects. The committee comprised the regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF) of Ranchi as its chairman and also the road construction department chief engineer, former IFS officer Narendra Mishra, environmentalist Bulu Imam, and the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) CEO.

The committee had in its report suggested empanelment of a tree transplanting agency.

“We had started the tender process for empanelment of tree transplanting agency three times in the last three years but the process could not be completed as only one firm took part in the bidding process,” a highly placed forest department source said. “We have again started the process again and have also initiated talks with some local agencies to show interest in the tender bid so that we can complete the process.”

The high court had in August 2016 had criticised the state government for delay in arranging a tree transplanting agency.

A senior forest official associated with the project of finalising the tree transplanting agency confirmed that Hyderabad based Volvo Trucks is interested in executing the work across state.

“Volvo Trucks has tree transplanting machines and has taken part during all the tender processes. However, no other agency took interest as the truck-mounted transplanting machine costs in excess of Rs 4 crore. We are in talks with some local agencies so that they take part in the tender agencies, even if they do not meet the eligibility criteria, to complete the tender process through multiple bidders. This is because we cannot complete the bidding process with a single bidder. We hope to complete the exercise by the end of October,” said the official.

According to the norms, whoever applies for the job should have at least three years’ experience in this field in the country. The company should also have a qualified team of at least one tree biologist and/or silviculturist (tree specialists, especially for forests) and a minimum of 10 tree transplanting machines, besides adequate number of complementary machines and other requisite resources to successfully carry out the task in time.

Jharkhand principal chief conservator of forest Sanjay Kumar said the department wanted to comply with the high court direction.

“The department is trying its best to select a tree transplanting agency for empanelment across state as per the advise of the high power committee constituted by the high court,” Kumar said. “Hopefully, it will be completed soon. As of now, agencies carrying out development work requiring tree felling are either carrying out tree plantation or transplantation on their own. It is mandatory to compensate for each felled tree by planting trees.”

The PIL was initiated suo motu by the high court on the basis of a news report that the road construction department had cut thousands of trees but had not planted saplings as it was supposed to do so.

Geologist and environmentalist Nitish Priyadarshi, lecturer in the department of environment and water at Ranchi University, said that in recent years hundreds of trees have been felled for road widening projects.

“In the last one or two years, hundreds of old trees have been cut in Taimara under Bundu police station area along NH-33 for its widening. There are proposals to cut hundreds of trees for widening of the Ranchi-Khunti and Ranchi-Silli road. Tree transplanting is the best method as merely planting saplings are no replacement for cutting old trees; the saplings would take years to grow, which would harm the ecology,” said Priyadarshi.

There are reports that nearly 3.44 lakh trees would be felled for the North Koel reservoir (known as Mandal dam) in the Palamau Tiger Reserve. “Tree transplantation should be done for projects both in city and rural areas as loss of tree cover will harm the environment,” Priyadarshi said.