Shillong: Amid the outcry on social media over the felling of pine trees in Upper Shillong, Meghalaya deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong on Friday said that the work will continue on the proposed Shillong-Dawki National Highway (NH) project.

However, once the project is completed, trees will be planted wherever space is available on the Shillong-Tamabil stretch, he added.

Tynsong is also the minister in-charge of PWD (roads) in Meghalaya.

Speaking with media persons, Tynsong said that the state government has already got the necessary clearance from the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change.

“Until and unless we don’t meet the criteria, we will not get the clearance. But we have already got that,” said Tynsong.

Meghalaya deputy CM Prestone Tynsong

The deputy chief minister, however, said that according to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, they will need to compensate for the loss by undertaking compensatory afforestation.

“That has also been done. PWD has already paid the compensation to forest department and the forest department has already acquired the land in West Khasi Hills to plant trees as compensation to the trees felled in Upper Shillong,” said Tynsong.

Tynsong added that as far as felling of trees was concerned, the DFO of the concerned division in East Khasi Hills was in charge of the initiative.

“Before doing that, PWD and NHIDCL showed the detailed mapping of the area to start the alignment and widening of the proposed highway. The trees were felled according to the alignment allotted. We can’t go beyond that,” said Tynsong.

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The government will later carry out tree plantation along the road once the project is completed, right from Shillong to Tamabil, said Tynsong.

“We are concerned about the greenery and want to ensure that environment is protected at any cost,” added Tynsong.

When asked about the high court order that work on the project should be stopped till the next hearing, Tynsong said, “We have furnished all the papers, so let the honourable high court take the call.”

Concerning the slow progress of the work, Tynsong said that about 7-8% progress work has been started. There is some delay right now because of the lockdown, he said.

On June 23, the state government faced criticism over cutting down of pine trees, some more than 100 years old, in the name of road expansion.

Later, Meghalaya minister for forests and environment James Sangma informed that only eight trees were felled given a curve and narrow space for the proposed Shillong-Dawki National Highway.

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