Several trees on the stretch between Nallagandla and Tellapur, close to Hyderabad's IT Corridor, were chopped down on Thursday night, much to the displeasure of citizens and activists.
Citizens who learnt of the ongoing work rushed to the spot on Friday morning and stalled the work. A complaint was also filed with the Chandanagar police.
Some also took to social media to raise an alarm.
#ThankyouGHMC— Sunil Sathyavolu (@ImSunilChakri) November 8, 2019
Terribly disappointed to see 30-40 yrs old trees cut down at midnight at Nallagandla - Tellapur Road, they surly have no right permissions to do so. @KTRoffice @KTRTRS Anna need your immediate help. @NallagandlaHyd @thenewsminute @GHMCOnline @CommissionrGHMC pic.twitter.com/tKUGllhrL4
According to documents shared by officials, the Roads and Buildings (R&B) Department applied for permission to fell 134 trees in total -- 83 on left side and 51 on the right, while travelling from Nallaganda to Tellapur, as part of road expansion plans.
The documents show that permission was granted to the R&B Department, by the Forest Divisional Officer (FDO) of Shamshabad.
When TNM visited the spot on Thursday morning, work was halted and workers who had been hired for the purpose, were seen sitting idly by the road.
"They started cutting it on Thursday. It was sad to see it happen. Many of these trees have been growing here for decades," a shopkeeper at the spot, who was witness to the incident, said.
Speaking to TNM, Suresh Matta, a resident of Serilingampally, said, "I rushed in the morning and I went to the spot and called the police. They came and stopped the work, following which I filed a complaint with them. Some trees are as old as 50 to 70 years. It is criminal to cut them in this manner."
In a letter granting the permission, the FDO noted, "Two species are Babul and Tamarind, while remaining were peltophorum species. It is noticed that all the 134 trees are either crooked and malformed, forked or bent, which is not suitable for translocation and felling may be permitted."
Authorities also said that the work was taken up for public purpose, "to ease traffic congestion and no alternatives are possible."
The letter which granted permission, also said that the applicant, in this case, the R&B Department, "shall plant three-year-old plants in proximity of the felling site with suitable native species as compensatory plantation, which should be supervised, protected and monitored regularly.
However, Suresh claimed that the documents did not seem to be in order.
"There is definitely a different procedure to be followed. Even the documents they are showing, does not have a stamp. It is mandatory for the documents to have a stamp from the competent authority, before they can go ahead," he said.
In a video he shared with reporters, Suresh also points out, "I can go online and print something like this."
Speaking to TNM, an official from the R&B Department said that they had taken all due permission before going ahead with their plans.
The official said that a 100-feet road had been planned and as traffic congestion was getting worse by the day, they decided to go ahead with adding one lane on either side of the road, and had applied for permission to cut the trees.
Asked about the 'stamp' claim, the official said, "That is absurd. The letterhead is there and so is the signature. There is no need for a stamp."
As many also tagged the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), West Zone, Zonal Commissioner, Hari Chandana also responded.
"Concern for saving these trees is well appreciated. The road is under development for the convenience of nearly 5 lakh commuters by R&B department. On permission from Forest department, the trees are removed. Five times the number of trees cut, will be replanted on the edge of the road," she tweeted.
Concern for saving these trees is well appreciated. the road is under development for the convenience of nearly 5 lakhs commuters by R n B dept. On permission from forest dept,the trees are removed.5 times the trees cut will be replanted on the edge of the road. @KTRTRS— Hari Chandana IAS, Zonal Commr, West Zone GHMC (@zcwz_ghmc) November 8, 2019