Telangana: Nature lovers condemn NHAI for violating NGT order

Hyderabad: The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) was slammed by the Nature Lovers of Hyderabad (NLH) for violating National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order against axing banyan trees.

NHAI has been directed to come up with an effective plan for widening the National Highway-163 with minimal damage to the century-old banyan trees for the next hearing, scheduled on January 11.

Nature Lovers of Hyderabad (NLH) members alleged that road widening works are underway on the NH-163 near Himayatnagar village, despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordering authorities against axing banyan trees on the Hyderabad-Manneguda stretch.

The NLH, a group of environmentally conscious citizens, have filed a petition, bearing over 62,400 signatories who demanded that the road expansion take place on either side of the trees bypassing the banyans and further asked the ministry of road transport and highways to declare the stretch of highway till Vikarabad, as the Telangana biodiversity heritage road.

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The members urged that incorporating natural resources, like trees, lakes and rocks, while developing infrastructure is also essential as they play a prominent role in maintaining the ecological balance while agreeing to the fact that road widening is necessary for the safety of people.

The NHAI representatives in October 2022, had reportedly said that they would ensure that loss to the ecosystem is minimal and that most of the trees will be saved.

However, after surveying, it was found that they would only be able to save 209 of the existing 914 trees.

It was also reportedly found earlier that only 18 per cent of the plants had survived in the new habitat.

The agitating nature lovers have hence demanded that the NHAI should come up with a good plan rather than axing and translocating banyan trees.

They further stressed that road widening can be taken up by alternative ways without effective trees.

What happened earlier

In July 2022, residents of the city gathered at National Highway (NH) 163 to protest the cutting down of Chevelle’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.

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.