[Update: On 14th January, The Logical Indian reported that for PM’s visit to Odisha on January 15, over 1,000 trees were felled to create space for a helipad. After our report, contrary media reports came to light. India Today did a fact check on the same which says that thousands of trees were not cut and only a few trees and saplings were removed for the same. We have updated the article and the title on 16th January to reflect the same]
What the new report says
As per India Today, only a handful of trees and saplings were cut on January 13. The media reports are wrong on stating that over 1,000 trees were cut. The Google Earth photo of the spot of November 2018 shows that space was vacant and there were only a handful of trees proving that the media reports were wrong. Suraj Tripathy, one of the locals, went to the exact spot on India Today’s request to help find the geolocation.
According to the preliminary probe by railways not more than 40 shrubs and saplings were removed from the area and the report also added that Railways has removed trees from its own land for the function. A railway official who spoke to The Telegraph said, “The land was filled with raw materials used for the construction of tracks and we have cleared only these. Everything was video-graphed. We will submit all evidence before the inquiring authorities at the right time,” the official said.
Though Odisha forest department which earlier claimed that over 1,000 trees were cut without their permission still standby what they had said earlier and has ordered a separate probe and are in touch with the railways.
Our old report
Thousands of trees were cut on January 13 for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Odisha’s Balangir district on January 15. The trees were allegedly fell for creating space for temporary helipads and for security reasons. The area happens to be under the jurisdiction of the railways.
“Authorities were required to take permission”
Saplings were planted on 2.25 hectares land of the Indian Railways in 2016 under the urban plantation programme. For PM Modi’s upcoming visit to the district, an area of 1.25 hectares was cleared, as reported by The Hindu. Reportedly, no permission was sought from the forest department before felling the trees.
Confirming the same, Samir Kumar Satpathy, Balangir Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) told the press, “The allegation of tree felling is true. No prior permission was sought from us for it.” Satpathy also said that the Railways department was confronted regarding the unauthorized felling of trees. The forest department was then told that the trees were urgently cut down from the point of security. Further inquiry has been ordered and a notice will be issued to the Railways department to explain the need to do this.
An on-spot inquiry revealed that the trees cut were about four to seven feet tall with a survival rate of close to 90%. Satpathy said that about 1,000 to 1,200 in total were cut. However, local media says that about 3,000 trees were fell.
As reported by NDTV, the railway department distanced itself from the matter saying that the preparation of such helipad was the task of the Public Works Department (PWD) of the state government. Spokesperson of the East Coast Railways said, “It’s the PWD that can construct helipads. Railways do not carry out such activities”, reported The Indian Express.
The Union Petroleum Minister and senior BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan said that people afraid of PM Modi’s visit are spreading false rumours by misusing forest officials.
The Logical Indian Take
It is not the first time, a plantation has been cleared for a political event. Just for a temporary set-up, well-grown trees are mowed down, as seen in this case, that too without permission from the authority. The Logical Indian urges the concerned authority to take note and make sure that such incidents do not take place in future.