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Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Avenue trees get a breather

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 14. Bowing to mounting pressure from nature lovers and concerned citizens, the Government has decided to spare the avenue trees along the LMS-Kowdiar stretch scheduled to be felled for the ongoing road development project.

At an informal meeting on Monday evening, the chairman of the Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority, P.K. Venugopal, and officials of the Thiruvananthapuram Road Development Company (TRDCL) told a group of environmentalists that the trees would be spared the axe. They assured the gathering that road widening on this stretch would be put on hold and the project redesigned to save as many trees as possible.

Project managers have been issued directions to cover up the trenches dug up near the trees on the footpath. "The Government has decided to subject the project to a reanalysis and reduce the number of trees to be cut down to the bare minimum," Mr. Venugopal said.

The poet and environmental activist B. Sugathakumari, the former Foreign Secretary K.P.S. Menon, the former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. S.K. Pillai and representatives of various environmental groups and social and cultural organisations in the city were present on the occasion.

They told the project officials that the decision to cut down the trees was a case of lopsided priorities.

Residents' concern

Highlighting the concern of the city residents, Ms. Sugathakumari said: "Apart from contributing to the city's green cover, the avenue trees lining the Museum-Kowdiar stretch have become part of the identity of the city. Nowhere else in the world does one come across such a blatant assault on treasured heritage."

Responding to the assurance by project officials that a compensatory plantation programme had been drawn up, she said the Government had flouted such promises in the past when executing similar road projects. Ms. Sugathakumari said the Government should demonstrate its sincerity by planting saplings to replace the trees to be cut down. "We are not against the development of the city. But the genuine concerns of the public cannot be ignored," she said.

Explaining the salient features of the project, Mr. Venugopal said the roads project was envisioned to serve the development needs of the city for the next 15 years. He said the drains and utility ducts would obviate the need to dig up the roads for maintenance and service.

Mr. Venugopal told the gathering that the concerns of the public would be taken into account while redesigning the project. He said the trenches dug up around the city would be covered up within 24 hours.

The TRDCL vice-president, Anilkumar Pandala, and senior officials of TRIDA also participated in the meeting.

Public opposition

Public opposition to the project had been snowballing into a resistance movement ever since the trees had been marked for felling. The LMS-Kowdiar stretch is one of the major stretches to be taken up for development under the City Roads Improvement Project, which covers 14 road corridors. As many 94 bus bays, two flyovers and an underpass are to be constructed as part of the project.

The widening of the LMS-Kowdiar road involves reducing the width of the footpath by one metre and adding it to the carriageway to facilitate smoother flow of traffic.

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