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Crores of trees planted but green cover shrinking in Taj City!!

Agra, Oct 8 (IANS) Extensive rural networks, Expressways, Highways, and state PWD roads, are collectively eating up all the public green spaces leading to large-scale denudation of trees in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone spread over 10,400 square km.

Where trees should have been growing, you now have houses and public utilities.

“The craze for laying cement tiles everywhere, has further affected seepage and percolation of rainwater resulting in alarming drop in the water table in Agra district,” says green activist Rajiv Gupta.

Eco-activists have now warned of a steadily diminishing green cover in the Taj City, with one expert blaming monkeys for it.

The Supreme Court has been repeatedly asking authorities since 1996 to intensify efforts to develop a green belt to contain air pollution in Agra, India’s most popular tourist destination, to protect the 17th-century monument of love, the Taj Mahal, and other Mughal marvels.

But massive construction activity, including the high priority 29.6-km network of the Metro rail in Agra, has shrunk the already low green cover. The latest is the decision of the Railways to auction its unused land in the heart of the city to the colonisers.

“From Vrindavan to Agra, there were 12 big forests in the Braj area. But now only their names remain. The green patches have turned brown, yellow and grey. Agra itself was once upon a time called Agravan, the (frontier forest). Green activists blame the builders and corrupt government officials who had colluded to gobble up huge chunks of forest land. Illegal felling of trees continues along the Yamuna to develop new colonies in the flood plains.”

Environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya said the continuous construction of roads, expressways, flyovers, and other projects had taken a heavy toll on green cover, especially trees.

Despite the Supreme Court’s direction on developing a green belt around Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, no work had been done, he alleged.

“The eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone spread over 10,400 square km, has seen continuous denudation of forest cover due to massive construction activity. The Yamuna and Agra-Lucknow expressways, dozens of flyovers, the inner city Ring road and the widening of the National Highway to Delhi have gobbled up acres of green cover, exposing the Taj Mahal to dust-laden winds from Rajasthan desert.”

The Supreme Court had directed that a green buffer be created to insulate the historical monuments from air pollution.

“But there has been no significant improvement in the conditions in the Taj Trapezium Zone. Even the area around the protected Soor Sarovar bird sanctuary was being gobbled up by colonisers and business interests. The dense cover at Keitham Lake is continuously being reduced,” Bhattacharya added.

One expert, K.P. Singh, noted that instead of increasing the forest cover area, the percentage had fallen to around seven per cent against the national standard of 33 per cent. The loss of green cover had affected the rainfall pattern, reducing the number of rainy days in Agra.

Nature lover Gopal Singh of the Agra Heritage Group says: “Agra was being ruined by so-called development. The alarming fall in the green cover due to negligence and corrupt ways of the bureaucracy will prove suicidal.”

Many green activists, including Padmini Iyer, blame the exploding simian population for the destruction of greenery.

“You plant saplings in one area and the next day the marauding army of simians will invade to destroy the greenery. The city has more than one lakh monkeys, and many have turned violent and aggressive,” Iyer said.

“The monkeys are a big nuisance. We keep planting saplings all over but find the next day that the monkeys have uprooted them all. To promote green culture in the city, we will need to contain the monkey population,” adds Eco Club President Pradip Khandelwal.

It is not that there is any scaling down of the governmental efforts to plant saplings. Each year the official agencies set new records in sapling plantations but these are “Paper Trees,” only on files, says green activist Chaturbhuj Tiwari.

“If you add up the numbers of trees planted in Uttar Pradesh in the last 25 years, you’d wonder where is the space left for humans,” Tiwari adds.

Every July, crores of saplings are planted but still, the green cover is shrinking. Why, wonders Pandit Jugal Kishor of the ‘River Connect Campaign’.

This year Agra authorities claimed to have planted more than 50 lakh saplings in July. Last year the target was a crore. In 2018, Agra planted 20 lakh, in 2019 the number was 28 lakh, in 2020 they planted 38 lakh, and in 2021, more than 45 lakh saplings were planted. Since there is no follow-up, nobody has any idea, how many have survived and where. A former mayor of Agra during his tenure planted 12,000 saplings on the Yamuna river bed and when the rains came the effort was washed away, but the contractors and the agency involved were paid for their work.

In the last year of his term in office, Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav set a Guinness World Record for planting 50 million saplings in a day. Next year Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath set a target of nine crore saplings.

Despite such Herculean efforts, the green cover in Uttar Pradesh remains a dismal nine per cent, against the national target of 33 per cent.

The ground reality is that there is not enough land left for new plantation drives. For chopping one tree to make way for a new project, the department concerned files an affidavit in the apex court promising to plant two trees, but then where is the space?

“For 90 million saplings, we need 2,25000 hectare of land, if the distance between two saplings is kept at five metre. The Akhilesh Yadav government planted 50 million. So now where’s the space,” horticulture expert Mukul Pandya wonders.

“If so many trees have been planted over the years, why they are not visible?” Pandya asks.

Explains eminent environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya, “The eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 square km, has seen continuous denudation of forest cover due to massive construction activity. The Yamuna and Agra-Lucknow expressways, dozens of flyovers, the inner city ring road, and the widening of the National Highway to Delhi have gobbled up acres of green cover, exposing the Taj Mahal to dust-laden winds from Rajasthan desert.”

The Supreme Court had directed that a green buffer be created to insulate the historical monuments from air pollution.

“But there has been no significant improvement in the conditions around the Taj Trapezium Zone.

If you add up all the claims of tree plantation work each year since 1990 by successive state governments, there would be hardly an inch of space left for planting new saplings. Uttar Pradesh’s green cover is hardly 10 per cent and with new mega projects coming up everywhere, film city, international airport, expressways, residential urban clusters, and shopping complexes, the space for extending green cover is severely limited.

Activists of the ‘River Connect Campaign’ have demanded a comprehensive independent audit of the greening work done so far in the Taj Trapezium Zone.

–IANS

bk/khz

Indian Abroad News Desk
Indian Abroad News Deskhttps://www.indianabroad.news
Indian Abroad is a news channel and fortnightly newspaper meant for Australia’s Indian community and, besides news, focuses on lifestyle subjects like health, travel, culture, arts, beauty, fashion, entertainment, Bollywood, etc. Our YouTube channel here features daily news bulletins besides infotainment videos on lifestyle subjects.

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