Guwahati: As the Assam government moved forward on designs to build a new bridge over the Brahmaputra river connecting north and south Guwahati, hundreds decided to form a human chain on Sunday morning to campaign against felling of trees for the project.
Senior citizens and children gathered outside the Sankardev Park in the Machkhowa area of Guwahati with banners reading “Save Trees and River Front”, “Who Will Save Our Future?”, and “Don’t be Greedy – It’s Time to Save Greenery”.
A protester said the administration is planning to cut about 250 trees along the riverfront for the construction of the bridge.
“We have no problem with the government building a bridge, but the approach road that goes through this park and ends behind the Sonaram Higher Secondary School is lined with trees, some of which are as old as 100 years. I remember seeing them this big in the Sixties, when I was a school student. If you build a bridge passing near this park by felling 200-250 trees, you would be destroying the environment,” said retired colonel Ramen Choudhury, a resident of Bharalumukh, Guwahati.
“So many of us come to this park for our morning walks and you would not find such an environment close to the river side in any other part of Guwahati. The trees are home to bird species and small animals as well,” he added.
In February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the proposed six-lane bridge over the Brahmaputra, which upon completion would save travel time between the southern and northern banks of the river from 90 minutes to 15 minutes.
The bridge would start from Bharalumukh on the south bank and end at NH-31 near Gauripur junction on the north bank.
“The state government never sought any public opinion before going ahead with such a project. Stakeholders are never consulted. We are thinking of filing a PIL in this regard, but we are running out of time. By the time we take it up legally, they might already start cutting the trees,” said another protester.
Sources said a lot of trees were cut during the construction of the Guwahati passenger ropeway this year, also thought to be India’s longest river ropeway to be soon operational from Kachari Ghat of Panbazaar on the southern side to the northern bank of Dol Govinda Temple.
“They had chopped off trees at the Kachari river bank site to build the ropeway and it brought down the nests of Indian Ringneck parrots — about 150 chicks fell off the chopped trees and were taken away by forest officials,” said one of the protesters on condition of anonymity.
The committee of locals, who led the campaign, wants the government to redesign the project in such a way that the existing Sankardev Park and Azan Pir Park along the riverfront and the Bharalu basin can be saved from destruction.
They also want the government to appoint a technical committee with stakeholders from different fields to jointly find a solution.
In Maharashtra, green activists have been fighting an impassioned battle with the state government and civic body against the felling of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony for the construction of a metro car shed.
Despite protests, about 1,000 trees have already been cut in the area that led to clashes following which a number of activists were arrested. The Supreme Court has ordered a status quo in the case till the next hearing.