U’khand plans to fell 25k trees for constructing a research college near
elephant reserve (Dehradun)
Shivani Azad, Times of India
July 25, 2021
The Uttarakhand government is planning to fell 25,000 trees for the
construction of a Science research college in the biodiversity-rich
Balawala area of the Raipur forest range under the Mussoorie forest
The officials have already identified a 103-acre land in the forest for the
construction of the campus of the institute, which is to be developed on
the lines of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER).
The state education department, according to TOI sources, has even sent a
proposal to the Union government regarding the construction of the college.
A senior official of the education department, requesting anonymity, told
TOI, “A proposal has been sent to Centre. The idea is to have an
IISER-level college as Uttarakhand needs a Science research college.”
However, the proposal to fell trees has drawn flak from activists as it
will not just deplete green cover but also destroy the natural habitats of
several animals like elephants, leopards, deer, snakes, avian species,
rabbits, and innumerable small creatures. The dense Balawala forest is rich
in sal, amla, and teak trees. Besides, the Song river flowing through the
forest makes for a robust forest ecosystem in the area.
Further, the forest is close to Shivalik Elephant Reserve and thus, is
often frequented by elephants. In fact, the state government, on November
8, 2020, had inaugurated a three-km-long solar power fencing to stop the
movement of elephants from Balawala forest to agriculture fields and nearby
Rakesh Negi, range officer of the Balawala forest, said, “According to our
estimate, the 103-acre area has around 20,000-25,000 trees. We have already
counted about 5,000 trees. The process of tree estimation is ongoing,
although at a slow pace due to the monsoon season.”
Meanwhile, an IFS official told TOI that the state government is planning
to acquire forest land for the institute campus as it is cost-effective.
“Acquiring land from people requires a heavy amount of money. On the other
hand, the government just has to pay the net present value while acquiring
the forest land,” said the official.
Kahkashan Naseem, divisional forest officer of the Mussoorie forest
division, under whose jurisdiction the identified 103-acre land falls,
said, “The project will take off only after multiple levels of clearances.”