Overruling environmentalists’ protests, the Forest Advisory Committee — the final experts body under the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) — has recommended clearance for Mayawati’s ambitious eight-lane expressway from Greater Noida to Saharanpur along the Upper Ganges Canal.
The project, which will involved cutting down 42,100 trees in five districts, will however have to go without the seven mini cities along the highway meant for residential projects, shopping complexes and amusement parts. The cancellation of the special areas will save around 150 hectare of forests from the 782 hectares of forest initially requested for the project.
The 150-km highway, which will lie adjacent to a 150-year-old British-built canal, is one of Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s pet projects and is expected to change the development dynamics of several districts in Western UP by making them easily accessible from the National Capital.
Environmentalists like Rajendra Tyagi have opposed the Rs 7,000 crore project, claiming that the destruction of the trees will create an “ecological hazard.”
“Rare wild species like golden cats, monitor lizards, turtles, ovals and snakes have been living on the banks of this canal for more than one hundred years now,” he said recently, protesting Mayawati’s move. There is already a road on the left side of the canal, he pointed out, adding that the fast moving vehicles would threaten the lives of the wild animals who come to drink at the canal.
However, even as it recommended clearance for the project, FAC insisted on proper plantation of trees along the sides of the road, as well as finding areas to do ‘compensatory afforestation.’