Shillong: Following the outcry on social media over the felling of trees in Upper Shillong, Meghalaya Minister for forests and environment, James Sangma on Wednesday informed that only eight trees were felled given a curve and narrow space for the proposed Shillong-Dawki National Highway.

Speaking to media persons, Sangma said that the aged Cryptomeria japonica heritage trees, along the roadside from upper Shillong to Banium and adjacent to the EAC headquarters have been entirely shielded. Only eight trees, including two diseased standing trees, were felled as it was necessary.

“To safeguard the heritage trees, the NHIDCL reduced the Right of Way (ROW) from standard 45-60 meters for 4-laning to bare minimum 24 meters with the utility provisions like water pipelines, electricity, etc. to reduce ROW, the standard median of 2.5 meters has been reduced to a bare minimum 0.6 meters,” informed Sangma.

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He added that to compensate for the loss, compensatory afforestation would be undertaken in an equivalent non-forest area provided by NHIDCL at Nongumiang, West Khasi Hills per the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

“It may also be mentioned that for every single tree felled for any purpose outside the forest land, 10 trees will be planted as compensation to ensure that the environment is protected,” said Sangma.

The PWD had proposed realignment and widening of the Shillong-Dawki National Highway at Upper Shillong through the Upper Shillong Protected Forest. The total affected forest area for diversion under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was 16.107 Hectares was granted by the Regional Office- Shillong, MoEFCC, Govt of India on 06-03-2021 along with conditions for compliance to be fulfilled by the user agency i.e, NHIDCL. The MoEFCC accorded the final approval.

According to the government, due procedures were followed for diversion of the forest land and felling of trees from the forest and non-forest areas for the proposed road project.

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