Rajni Shaleen Chopra, 20th April 2010
The felling of trees to construct a building at the Block Development and Panchayat Office (BDPO) in Fazilka is being opposed by local residents, led by the Graduates Welfare Association of Fazilka (GWAF).
The association, which has played a key role in the development of this neglected township over the last few years, has approached the district commissioner of Ferozepur to stop the construction, but claim to have got no relief.
The plea taken by GWAF is that instead of raising a large concrete structure by spoiling the lawns and axing trees at the office, "environment-friendly" construction should be undertaken and give the place a traditional and natural look.
The funds for the project, which aims to market products by rural artisans, have been granted by the Rural Development Ministry. GWAF has urged the DC and other officials that kiosks on the pattern of Dilli Haat be constructed.
Talking to The Indian Express, GWAF Secretary Navdeep Asija said, "Senior Punjab Minister Manoranjan Kalia recently spoke at CII, Chandigarh, about the state's plans to review the floor-area ratios, and to encourage vertical growth to avoid destruction of green areas. The construction activity at the BDPO office in Fazilka is against the stand taken by the government. Five full-grown trees have already been uprooted to construct the building, which will come up in place of the office lawns," he said.
Vikram Ahuja, a founder member of GWAF, added: "We appreciate the initiative to provide a market to local artisans, but this should not be done at the cost of the environment. Low-cost brick kiosks and thatched cottages made around the trees would have given the place the look of a traditional bazaar. Further landscaping would make the area a showpiece of Indian culture, attracting the local populace and tourists alike."
Ferozepur DC Kamal Kishore Yadav, however, said, "These buildings are being constructed across the country as a marketplace for rural artisans, as per the plan sanctioned by the government. The civil construction is being carried out as per the approved design. I will check if the trees are being axed according to government instructions." Fazilka is a tehsil in Ferozepur district.
Asija, meanwhile, pointed out that even if ten saplings are planted in place of the uprooted trees, they will take years to mature, and the survival rate is questionable too. "The government often talks of green buildings. Such talk is of little use if meaningful initiatives are not taken at the ground level," he reasoned.
The association has decided to take up the matter with Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.