India: 40 trees massacred without permits for University construction in Hyderabad

The English and Foreign Languages University (Eflu) may be a centre of
excellence for learning languages, but it seems to score very
poorly on issues concerning environment. The authorities allowed
merciless felling of about 40 huge, old trees to make way for
construction work. And all this in violation of the rules that require
prior permission from the forest department for doing so. The trees,
including gulmohar and neem, with some them over 50 years old, were
done to death during the last one month. The trees around the men’s
hostel and the heritage well were felled in November while fresh
“sanctions” for tree cutting down were issued by Eflu vice-chancellor
Abhai Maurya on Dec 19. But the trees near the women’s hostel on the
campus appear to have got a reprieve because of protests from students
on Friday. Insisting that the tree-felling was absolutely necessary to
build new hostels to accommodate the increasing number of students,
the VC said they had the required permission, a claim denied by the
forest department.

On Saturday, when the authorities wanted to cut
down six trees around the women’s hostel for constructing pillars to
add four more floors to the building, the protesting students hurled
themselves in front of the bulldozers. “We could not save the trees
near the men’s hostel. The trees around the women’s hostel should not
meet the same fate,” a Ph D student of the university told STOI. “It
is outrageous that the university which boasts of being
environmental-friendly in its prospectus is actually felling the
trees,” an M Phil student lamented.
Describing the students’ protest as “unrealistic,” V-C Maurya, who
clearly has little knowledge of the law – said the trees had to make
way for new buildings. “The university will have to accommodate 500
more students by the coming year and 200 of the current batch of
students are being put up at the staff quarters for want of
accommodation,” he said. Forest department officials, meanwhile, said
they had not accorded any permission for felling the trees. “The
matter was reported by the students on December 19 and we have stopped
the fresh felling,” forest range officer, Hyderabad north, M Janaki
Ram told STOI. Officials say that they could fine the university up to
Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 for felling trees depending upon the extent of
damage caused. Meantime, environmental NGOs have decided to strengthen
the students’ cause. “We condemn tree cutting. We have told the VC to
get fresh permission before the trees are felled. We will ensure that
no tree is felled till permission is obtained,” said M Vedakumar,
president of Forum for Better Hyderabad. The forum is planning to hold
a protest meeting soon on the Eflu campus.

Posted via email from Deane’s posterous

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