33,000 Trees To Be Cut For Shimla Parwanoo 4 Lane Highway

Where and How HP Forest Department plans to replace the 33,000 trees being cut for Parwanoo Shimla highway has no answers ?

It’s a done deal. Project for 4 laning of Parwanoo – Shimla stands approved. Thousands of trees have been hacked for construction of the Parwanoo – Solan stretch. Thousands more will be sawed for the Solan – Shoghi stretch.

Total cost of the 65.5 hectares of forest land transferred to National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and minimum number of 21,585 trees, 1604 seedlings and 10,221 saplings that have to be removed to pave the way for the road on 9th January, 2015 was evaluated at Rs 18,89,33,145.

Against the demand raised NHAI on 13th March, 2015 paid Rs 8,71,92,790/- as Net Present Value (NPV) of the forest land needing to be diverted into the Himachal CAMPA account and furthermore Rs 9,31,40,305/- into the account of Divisional Forest Officer, Solan on 16th March, 2015 for cost of trees including saplings to be cut, departmental charges and VAT levied.

Data Source: Himanshu Thakur RTI Papers

For constructing the Parwanoo – Solan stretch, the Divisional Manager, Forest Working Division, Solan, in response to an RTI query has disclosed that of a total of 12,508 trees marked for cutting as on 31st March 2016 a total of 11,984 already been cut.

Only on 4th May, 2016 the union cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the four laning of the Shimla Bypass (Kaithlighat to Shimla section) of National Highway – 22 at a cost of Rs 1583.18 crore.

On approval the CCEA in a official communique stated, “The main object of the project is to expedite the improvement of infrastructure in Himachal Pradesh and also in reducing the time and cost of travel for traffic, particularly heavy traffic, plying on the Kaithlighat to Shimla section on National Highway-22.

The development of this stretch will also help in uplifting the socio-economic condition of the concerned regions of the State and would also increase employment potential for local labourers for project activities.”

Surely the road infrastructure would be upgraded and will help to remove the congestion building up on the two lane Parwanoo – Shimla highway.

NH 22 Trees To Be Felled
Trees To Be Felled For NH – 22 (Source: Himanshu Thakur RTI Papers)

But nobody seems to answering how and where will the over 33,000 trees that are marked for cutting of this road project would be replaced by compulsory afforestation.

“All are passing the buck,” says Himanshu Thakur, an RTI activist who has questioned National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI), Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF), Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and Himachal Pradesh State Forest Department about the forest land diversion for the highway and about the compulsory afforestation with new trees to be planted to replace the ones being cut down.

Mr Satish Kaul, Chief Public Information Officer, NHAI in response to Himanshu’s RTI query on 16th March, 2016 has stated that the permission to cut the trees was granted by MoEF.

Moreover, NHAI has the ownership of all wood, timber that was extracted from the massive tree felling.

Chil trees cut for Parwanoo Solan Highway (File Photo: Ravinder Makhaik)
Chil trees cut for Parwanoo Solan Highway (File Photo: Ravinder Makhaik)

The question as to how many trees have been cut for the road construction was passed onto the HP Forest Development Corporation, Solan. Where the Solan Divisional Manager Forests has disclosed about the number of trees cut, both neither he nor the state forest department has disclosed the amount of funds received nor have they disclosed as to how CAMPA funds are utilized or how many trees have been planted from CAMPA funds in the last 10 years.

Kaul has also declared that NHAI has paid no money to HP Forest Department for cutting of the trees and the task of planting new trees to compensate for the loss of flora and fauna was entrusted to the State Forest Department under compensatory afforestation.

But the State Forest Department, in response to the RTI query has not disclosed about the funds received under CAMPA or about how and where it plans to undertake the plantation drives to replace the trees being cut.

Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change in its letter F No 8-11/2014-FC dated 30th December, 2014 granted the approval as “the Central Government hereby conveys the Stage I approval for diversion of 65.50 hectares of forest land in favour of NHAI for laying of NH-22 Parwanoo to Solan (67 Km) within the jurisdiction of Solan Forest Division, subject to fulfillment of conditions, which included:

The state government was asked to charge Net Present Value of the forest land being diverted and NHAI as the user agency was asked to pay for it. NHAI has deposited the amount in the state CAMPA bank account.

One of the conditions imposed by MoEF was, “Any tree felling shall be done when it is unavoidable and that too under strict supervision of the State Forest Department.”

Data Source: Himanshu Thakur RTI Papers

On its part the State Forest Department on 9th January, 2015 put the Net Present Value (NPV) of the forest land diverted for the highway project at Rs 6,15,04,500/; the cost of compulsory forestation was put at Rs 2,56,88,290/; a department charge (17.5%) of Rs 44,95,450/ was levied; Cost of trees including saplings was put at Rs 8,24.25,037/; VAT (@ 13.75%) was Rs 1,07,15,3018/; Cost of Building Rs 86 lakh; making a total demand of Rs 18,89,33,145/- for diversion of the 65.5 hectares of forestland with the trees.

An document that assesses the total number of trees coming in the widening of the highway from Parwanoo to Shogi of Solan Forest Division put the minimum number trees that needed to be cut at 21,585 besides there being 1604 seedlings and 10,221 saplings.

Trees Cut for NH - 22 (File Photo: Ravinder Makhaik)
Trees Cut for NH – 22 (File Photo: Ravinder Makhaik)

Seeking to know the status of CAMPA Funds and their utilization against the NH 22 project, MoEF in response to Himanshu Thakur’s RTI query as to how this amount would be spent; how many trees and of what type would be planted where; in last 10 years how much CAMPA funds had been received for NHAI projects in HP and what work CAMPA had done in Himachal Pradesh in the last 10 years, Rajagopal Prashant, the chief public information officer MoEF categorically states, “No such information is available with this office”……..and adds……”this application is being transferred to the Government of Himachal Pradesh for provision of information, if any.”

Himanshu’s question as to where and how the over 33,000 trees being cut for widening of NH 22 would be replaced and how are CAMPA funds being utilized has found no answers.

Cost of the 89 Km Parwanoo to Shimla 4 lane highway has been projected at Rs 2518 crores.

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  1. says: CNB

    Regarding the “Compulsory Afforestation”, the officials responsible should definitely provide answers and take the accountability for getting the afforestation done in a proper manner.

    The Forest dept. of H.P. or should i say the whole state govt. (goes for both congress and BJP) has forgotten its role of conserving the flora and fauna of our ecologically sensitive Himachal. The forest dept. has turned into more of a business enterprise, cutting down trees and giving away forest land without any second thought. It really saddens my heart that these ignorant, selfish people just do not seem to realise that whatever goodness, peace or joy they have in their lives is only because of these forests. The devi-devta they revere so whole heartedly, live in these forests, these forests are the very soul of Himachal Pradesh and these guys are hell bent on turning it into a business machine.

    I request anyone who reads this comment that please do your bit to save our environment. please start planting trees in forest lands, in your fields, or wherever possible. Remember, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 year ago. The second best time is NOW”.

  2. says: Avay Shukla

    As I have been maintaining for the last two years, this is a monumental disaster in the making- from the environmental point of view as well as for Shimla. International experience has proven time and again that improvement of roads provides only temporary relief, as within a few years the increase in traffic nullifies the widening. Traffic in Shimla is already a nightmare: where will the thousands of additional cars find parking( or even driving) space once they hit Shimla? The town has already exceeded its carrying capacity many years ago and this Highway to Hell will be the last nail in its coffin.
    The environmental impact will be horrendous: the Forest Deptt. will find some degraded lands for compensatory afforestation but given its previous track record not more than 30% of the new plantations will survive. The highway will be subject to landslides and subsidence for years to come and many more trees than the number now enumerated shall ultimately fall. I drove from Shimla to Delhi just two days back and it broke my heart to see the massacre of the lovely forest below Barog on the Solan- Kumarhatti by-pass. The increasing number of vehicles on the highway in the years to come shall lead to increased vehicular emissions along its entire length, further pushing up temperatures of the towns such as Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat.
    I also noticed a peculiar fact: the NHAI is doing no work of widening of the road in the towns and urbanised portions of the highway: Jabli, Dharampur, Kumarhatti, Solan, Salogra, Kandaghat. Why not ? Is it because it has yet to acquire land/ buildings falling in the right of way in these settlements, or have these cases been caught up in litigation ? In either case this shall delay the project and widening of the other stretches shall have no beneficial effects if these choke points are not removed/ upgraded simultaneously.
    This is a short sighted project in which only the politicians, contractors and like minded officials shall make huge amounts of money at the cost of the state’s environmental values. If the idea was to reduce/ improve the travel time and experience to Shimla, the same could have been achieved at much lesser environmental and financial cost by constructing a few strategically located tunnels. Incidentally, it would be interesting to find out if any Environmental Impact Assessment or Social Impact Assessment was carried out for this project.
    HILLPOST needs to be commended for this factual news report: for the first time the average citizen of Himachal can grasp the magnitude of the folly that our government has committed. I am amazed( but not surprised) at how the rest of the state’s media has completely ignored this vital issue: I guess govt. ad revenues are more important than trees!

  3. says: Nodnat

    Fully agree with Mr Shukla’s views; over the next decade or so traffic movement on the Shimla-Kalka NH will be a nightmare. It already is and will get worse. By then, the volume of traffic would have multiplied several times over and the widening would become redundant. Scope for future politicians to make more money by 8-laning then? Compensatory Afforestation, like ALL afforestation, is a joke, but at the expense of the Exchequer. Here too, money making is the prime driver to achieve and over-achieve targets, which fortunately for all involved do not include survival of the trees planted. So, after all the hullabaloo about Compensatory Afforestation, there will be ruins of ‘achievement’ to show. But who cares?

    The path to really ‘Greening Himachal’ requires, among other things, hard work and common sense, both of which are in very short supply and our governments, our institutions, our bureaucracy are in no hurry to get anywhere. What good is progress if it is not perpetually painful?

  4. says: Pankaj Khullar

    Kudos to Hillpost and Mr. Makhaik for placing factual information before its readers.
    Policy makers and planners in Himachal Pradesh simply refuse to learn from past mistakes. Wherever so called road widening has been done, or new allignments constructed, the top soil has not only polluted the streams and rivers in the vicinity, but has buried productive agricultural terraces for ever. The existing Barog Bypass from Kumarhatti to Solan, and the NH22 from Shimla to Narkanda are cases in point. Not only were unsightly scars created along the hillsides, but the soil and the trees thereon continue to gradually creep downhill, even after 20 years of the slopes having been disturbed.
    It is true, Mr. Shukla, that the trees on public lands have been felled immediately after ‘in-principle’ approval was granted by MoEF, and the money deposited under CAMPA. Cutting of the slopes is also at an advanced stage. Private holdings, however, have not been touched yet – for whatever reason. What will happen if the NHAI is not able to acquire some patches of private land, as appears very likely at Dharampur, is anybody’s guess.
    The only certainty is that a decade from now, motorists driving to Shimla will no longer be enjoying views of verdant hill slopes and valleys ….. rather they will be driving through a tunnel bounded with stone walls only ….. all in the name of PROGRESS and DEVELOPMENT.

  5. says: GULSHAN MONGA

    My friends are only looking into one side of the negative effect if felling tree but not comparing that one car average time from kalka ji to shimla is around 3 hours. By widening of road the time will get reduced to atleast 30 percent. This will save burning of fuel and reduction of pollution. If you multiply average no of vehicles traveling both side between kalka ji and shimla in a year then the reduction of pollution this will be much more than the damage to be caused by felling of tree. Please think about future also then being limited to present. I am not blaming any body or Donot have any disrespect for any body. These are my only observations on which one should think with mind. Regards.

    1. says: Preeti Chauhan

      Sir your view point is correct to some extent, but do we realize that just to reduce the journey time we are playing with mother nature, the geological structure of the mountains in that particular stretch is highly devastating. If once hampered with the destruction will carry on and many innocent lives will be lost. And moreover , wider the roads , wider will be the traffic density. Sir have you ever traveled to Punjab. The roadsides in the early 90’s had a beautiful cover of tree branches which provided shade to driving vehicles, people didn’t feel the heat even during peak months while travelling. What is situation now there, no tree along the road side, all you get to see is the concrete road. Same is the situation in the hills now, it has lost the beauty , the natural shades. Tourism will of course increase keeping in view the distance and the time taken to visit those destinations, resulting in more burden and pressure on the nature, adverse effects are far more dangerous. humans have never been satisfied with technology. we had a far better relation with our family living far away with just the landline phones, but the urge to grow in technology led us to video calling rather than writing letters. So same is the situation with the broadening of the highways. We need to create awareness about this soon or else our children will face the consequences.

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