At a time when the requirement for stringent environmental conservation is widely being talked about in Kerala, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) has sought permission to cut over 4,000 trees from a green belt in Kochi for one of its projects. BPCL has sought permission to cut the trees for its upcoming petrochemical project in the region to produce polyols.
The trees which are planned to be chopped off are part of the green belt at Ambalamugal, an industrial hot spot in Kochi. From BPCLâ€™s LPG Bottling Plant to the plants of Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT), there are over a handful of chemical plants in the region. The green belt is situated surrounding a lake in the area and is the only separation between the industries and the residential areas around.
Dr CM Joy, who is part of the Tree Committee constituted by Social Forestry department in the district, told TNM that the district panchayat is heading to grant permission to BPCL to chop down the trees.
â€śI had visited the area last month along with a social forestry officer. After inspection I had given a recommendation that permission should not be granted without conducting an environmental assessment study on the impacts the cutting of trees can have in the area, and that BPCL should be made to submit a compensatory afforestation plan. But these were not done and in a meeting conducted on Monday, excluding me, the district panchayat officials granted permission to cut down the trees,â€ť said Dr Joy.
He also added that already the area is largely polluted and cutting down these many trees will increase the impact of the pollution on people.
Meanwhile district panchayat president Dolly Kuriakose told TNM that BPCL has agreed to an afforestation programme and will sign an agreement with social forestry to hand over a compensatory amount which will be used for afforestation. â€śThey have agreed to pay for the afforestation program which will mandatorily plant ten trees for each one that is chopped down,â€ť said Dolly Kuriakose.
Replying to the allegations, she said, â€śMoreover, an environmental impact assessment study was already conducted and it was following that that the state government gave sanction for the project. So there is no need to conduct another study as per Dr Joyâ€™s statement.â€ť She also added that the panchayat will ensure that the afforestation program is done accurately.
The District Panchayat President also added that so far no one has come up with a complaint against cutting the trees officially.