Several students of Government Engineering College in Thrissur were in for a shock when they walked into the college campus on Tuesday morning.
A contractor hired by the college, had already axed three trees in the compound and was set to axe another forty trees. The plot, according to plan, will later house the new building for the Mechanical department, a project worth Rs 3 Crore.
After preventing the tree-felling on the campus, several students- panning across departments- held up posters and demanded that trees be saved from being cut.
Speaking to the media, students accused the college management of having vested interests in axing the trees. They said that the college management had refused to consider an alternate location for the construction of the new building.
A student, who did not wish to be named told The News Minute that the college had attempted to axe the trees a few months ago.
"At the time, the college put off the action after we protested against cutting the trees. There is enough and more space on this campus to construct a new building without cutting so many trees. But the college does not seem to be willing to even consider it," the student said.
Another staffer said that the college decided to re-start the proceedings at a time when the current college union was dispersed for the upcoming student union elections in March.
However, Indira Devi, Principal of GEC denied that the students had even protested against the college's move to axe the trees.
"The students never carried out any protests on the campus. This morning, the contractor approached me saying that the students had prevented him from axing the trees. And then I held a discussion with the students. One man, who was speaking to the media on behalf of the students of the college, was not even our student," she said.
The Principal maintained that the college had completed all necessary procedures ahead of cutting the trees.
"This project proposal was made in 2014 and following this, we found a suitable location for it. Once the PWD okayed the plans, we got the sanction of the forest department to cut 43 trees on the plot. The college cannot, on its own will, cut trees in its 76 acre compound. This decision was arrived at, after holding discussions with students too. And there's no reason they must raise objection at this point," the principal said.
Dismissing allegations that the college management had misappropriated funds associated with the construction of the new building and felling of the trees, the Principal said that a contract to axe the trees was given as per the direction of the forest department.
While speaking to the media, several students said that the college was not willing to explore the possibility of an alternate location for the building. To this, the Principal said,
"The new department building should come close to their workshops. If the building is constructed in another location, the students will have to walk long stretches to reach the classes, which will cause them inconvenience," she said.
Asked about the future of the project, the Principal maintained that looking for an alternate location was unlikely.
"At this point, I am unable to comment on whether the college will proceed to axe the trees despite some students opposing it. We have to hold discussions and arrive at a solution," she said.