Just a few days before it the Telangana government launched phase two of “Telanganaku Haritha Haram” with much pomp and show, it rampantly felled trees in a Hyderabad suburb on the pretext of road expansion.
After inviting controversy by uprooting trees in the University of Hyderabad campus, the government has now descended on Tellapur, a suburb in Hyderabad. Residents of the area claim that authorities cut down over 100 trees on the stretch running from Gopanpally Junction to Tellapur, leaving what was once a pleasant, tree-lined road barren.
Leo Fernandez, CEO and Co-Founder of TalentEase, and a resident of Tellapur, who used to go for a morning walk everyday on this road is just one of the many locals upset by the mass felling of trees. He said, “We support the widening of roads but the government should plan it in such a way that they don't need to cut the trees. What is the use of doing Haritha-Haram when they are uprooting huge trees?”
Ramanjeet, a Manager with an IT firm, often travels on this stretch of road to drop his daughter to Manthan school in Tellapur. He pointed out that the green cover of the city is being depleted in a progressively larger radius in the name of development. “Most professionals like me prefer to buy or rent houses on the outskirts of the city for the greenery and peace. But what will we do if the government cuts all the trees that give beauty to this place?”
K Purshottam Reddy, a professor at Osmania University and a senior environmentalist says that the felling of trees just before the launch of the second phase of Haritha Haram is reminiscent of the haphazard, counter-productive approach to environmental issues. "We are the first state to clear a forest to plant trees and carry out Haritha Haram. Earlier they cut trees in the UoH campus to plant saplings for Haritha Haram, which is quite strange.”
He adds, "Residents of Tellapur should file a complaint in the police station against whoever is behind the mass felling, because cutting trees is a crime.” Purshottam points a finger at the government’s order GO 19, which simplified the procedure for obtaining permission for tree cutting to facilitate ease of doing business.
According to the GO, a person, firm or company intending to fell a tree existing on patta land or government land has to apply online or under a common application form along with a security deposit under the Water, Land and Trees (WALTA) Act, 2002.
Purshottam Reddy points out that the GO has been stayed by the National Green Tribunal, thus showing that mass felling of trees is still held to be a crime unless carried out in a procedurally correct manner. He adds, “So technically cutting of trees is a criminal activity. Every citizen has a right to complain against felling of trees".