Guwahati: What appears to be a green stretch covered with trees on both sides may soon be a sight of the past. A 13-km stretch in Assam’s Dabaka, which links Hojai to Karbi Anglong, is proposed to turn into a four-lane highway after chopping down close to 6,000 Sal trees.

The Assam government’s proposal, however, has attracted criticism as more and more people join in every day. What started as a protest by a handful of students is gradually turning into a movement to save the thousands of Sal trees, most of which are about 100 years old.

On Tuesday, several members of the All Assam Minority Students Union gathered in the area to stage a protest against the government’s proposal. Chants against the BJP-led state government and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma echoed during the protest.

The students’ union demanded a rollback of the proposal to construct the highway. Allegations were also made about the vested interests of the government in proposing the four-lane highway by dissecting the forest. Locals also suggested that the highway be shifted to the grazing land only about 200 meters from the forest.

A similar protest was also witnessed on Monday when several civic bodies and organisations, including members of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad and ‘The Rising Rays’, an NGO, gathered at Dabaka to protest against the proposal to fell trees.

The protestors refused any development at the cost of the environment stating that the forest is home to several species of animals and is also an elephant corridor. It is also home to around 600 residents.

Moreover, the government’s move came at a time when climate change has begun showing its effects in the region. Assam saw lower-than-expected rainfall and a drought-like situation in several areas this monsoon, putting farmers and people from the lower-income group at the receiving end.

Many believe a massive deforestation drive at such a time could prove disastrous for the region.

Also read: ‘Jai Shree Ram’ won’t reduce fuel cost: TMC protests against BJP in Tripura

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