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The destruction of Dehradun’s Green Cover

Why must we not believe what the politicians say.

Dr Nitin Pandey


Trees are to Doon what Canals are to Venice and narrow lanes are to Chandni Chowk. If the Mayor of Venice decided to drain the waterways of his city so that new roads could be built for the “welfare” of the people or the Mayor of Delhi ordered the lanes of Chandni Chowk be widened to accommodate increasing traffic, the two cities would loose their distinctive identities.

Similarly, when one thinks of Doon, images of tall lush green trees come to mind. If these trees are cut indiscriminately then a treeless Doon would, too, loose its distinctive identity and would not be different from any other town in the plains of UP.

The Dehradun Administration has been on a tree cutting drive over the last few years, rendering parts of Dehradun, like Haridwar Road and Chakrata Road, treeless. Driving along these “desert like” roads, one wonders if this is the development people wanted when they fought for a separate Uttarakhand?

The reasons for cutting down trees put up by the authorities revolve around the so-called need to widen the roads to accommodate ever increasing traffic. This argument is faulty on several counts.

Inexplicable Governmental actions

Before we discuss the fallacies of this argument, let us assume that the authorities actually believe what they are saying. If so, how can they explain the cutting down of approximately 1000 odd trees on the Selaqui – Doonga road, where there is hardly any traffic & where the villagers protested against it with all their might? The Doonga – Mussorie road is still on papers and work on it may not start for the next couple of years. What was the need and what was the hurry to cut 1000 fully grown green trees?

On the IT Park road, over two years ago trees were cut as they were “obstructing” traffic, yet on the same road, even today, electricity poles stand in the middle of the road! The alacrity shown in cutting down trees was not matched in the removal of electricity poles, why? Probably no one makes money while shifting electric poles!

Again presuming that the authorities actually want to smoothen traffic when they cut down trees, how can they explain the numerous times when after cutting down trees on Rajpur Road, their roots and trunk stumps were left untouched, for months. Not only were they obstructing an equal amount of traffic, they were more dangerous than the trees themselves to two wheelers, especially during night time and numerous people did hurt themselves banging against them. Numerous electric poles which are 1 – 2 feet inside the Rajpur Road have been left untouched while trees which were adjacent to them have been cut.

Similarly, the anxiety to cut down trees around Gandhi Park and Parade Ground in order to “widen the road & reduce traffic congestion” seems inexplicable because since the introduction of one way around the Parade Ground, traffic is much smoother than most other parts of the town and does not justify the cutting down of 250 tall lush green trees.

Therefore, one tends to conclude that the hastiness in cutting down the trees comes more from reasons other than the desire to improve the traffic in Doon.

The faulty logic of road widening

Experts all over the world agree on one basic thing. Widening of roads is NOT the answer to the traffic problems of any city. No matter how wide you make the road now, in a couple of years, with increasing population and vehicles, they will again be insufficient.

The idea therefore is to ensure traffic is less and better managed. In bigger cities like Bangkok, motorists pay an entry tax if they need to drive into the central part of the city, thus discouraging unessential traffic. World class public transport reduces road congestion, as can be seen in Delhi, where with the arrival of Metro, traffic along most routes has halved.

Managing the existing traffic is the most essential part of the whole exercise. Driving should be smooth and without any obstruction. For this the whole concept of “roads” must be understood.

The primary function of roads is to convey traffic from one point to another. For this to be fulfilled in an optimal manner, roads should not be used as shops, as parking lots and for walking. A major reason for traffic congestion in Doon is the encroachment of shops on roads and on footpaths, which forces people walk on the road itself, thereby causing more traffic obstruction. Handcarts and footpath shops obstruct traffic in the same way. Cars parked on roadsides due to non availability of parking lots reduce the available space on roads for vehicles to move. Buses parked on roads, waiting for passengers are a major cause of traffic congestion at Lansdowne Chowk.

If after all these factors have been corrected and traffic is still congested, it means that the road should be made a one way. The one way around Parade Ground has improved the traffic by around 85%. (the rest can be smoothened by removing the footpath shops, hand carts and parked buses). To save a single tree, numerous roads in Bangalore have been made one ways. Given a choice between cutting of trees and one way, an overwhelming majority of Doonites would prefer the one way option.

Insensitive local leaders & rumours of corruption

Sadly, the cutting down of trees has increased dramatically after Uttarakhand came into being. The presumption that local sensitivities and sentiments would be better addresses with locals at the helm of administration seems wrong. In the “good old days of UP” trees had a much more secure life.

Rumours abound of the significant differences in the contract price and the market price of the wood. Such rumours must be quashed by posting the details of contracts given on Internet. Improving transparency by issuing of e-tenders can go a long way in inspiring confidence.

Trees make Dehradun what it is and must be saved at any cost. The people of Doon overwhelmingly oppose the present tendency to chop down trees at the slightest pretext. With BJP in power both in the State and Dehra Dun Municipal Committee, it cannot escape responsibility for the unnecessary destruction of Dehradun’s green cover and given it’s poor electoral performance in recent past, alienating yet more people can be its last things on its mind. The sooner its leaders feel the pulse of the people, the better it is for the party and for Dehradun.

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