Hyderabad: NGT orders NHAI to assess risk of cutting Chevella banyans

Hyderabad: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued an order directing the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to mitigate the loss of banyan trees in Chevella.

Southern bench of NGT further directed the highway authority to protect the banyan trees keeping in mind those lost by the expansion of NH 163 between Hyderabad and Bijapur.

The move was triggered in response to a petition filed by the citizen action group, ‘Save Banyans of Chevella’.

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Chevella, which is notably home to nearly 1000 rare, century-old banyan trees, as well as thousands of other trees, has been facing the axe in recent times.

During the hearing, the bench of NGT consisting of Justice Pushpa Satyanarayana and Satyagopal Korlapati specifically pointed out NHAI’s unwillingness to explore options like re-aligning the road or creating bypasses to protect a larger number of trees.

Additionally, the tribunal in its judgement emphasized that NHAI should have conducted a thorough analysis of all feasible alternatives.

Urgency of environmental conservation

NGT also stressed the urgency of environmental conservation and called upon NHAI to assess the social, economic, and environmental repercussions of tree removal.

Furthermore, the tribunal’s judgment also emphasized the ecological benefits of roadside trees, particularly the banyan species.

As per NGT’s order, the Ministry of Environment and Forests must issue terms of reference for the completion of the EIA within four months.

NGT’s decision was welcomed by ‘Save Chevella Banyans’ campaign and the Nature Lovers of Hyderabad as they hoped more citizens to voice against cutting trees.

Agitation to protect Chevella banyans

Nature lovers in the past have agitated stressing that road widening can be taken up by alternative ways without effective trees.

In July 2022, residents of the city gathered at National Highway (NH) 163 to protest the cutting down of Chevella’s 914 banyan trees.

While locals have protested to ‘Save Chevella banyans’, the Telangana government continued with its road expansion plans to the detriment of the trees.

Back then, around 30 cyclists protested the potential harm which could befall the Chevella banyans arguing that the trees were far too valuable to be chopped down.