‘Forest man of India’ Jadav Payeng opposing the state government’s plan to cut down trees for a project in Bharalumukh in Guwahati, Assam on Tuesday Credit: EastMojo image

Guwahati: In a development reminiscent of the Aarey forest protest in Mumbai, locals of Guwahati in Assam are protesting a government plan to cut down over 300 trees on the south bank of the Brahmaputra for the construction of a bridge over the river.

The bridge, once completed, would connect Bharalumukh area of Guwahati with North Guwahati on the other side of the river.

On Tuesday, the protest got a major boost after Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng, popularly known as the ‘Forest man of India’ joined the locals to raise their voice against the government’s decision to chop the trees — some of which are over a century old and home to several endangered species of birds — in the name of development.

In an exclusive interview with EastMojo, Payeng said, “The bridge won’t help in controlling pollution. It would instead be the other way round. Many trees will have to be chopped down for this bridge. What will happen to our biodiversity? The bridge is also important but for that, nature should not be harmed.”

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The prominent environmentalist and Padma Shri awardee also raised the question that if countries like China can make bridges over roads then why can’t India take such initiatives and make overbridges without cutting down trees?

The government should first think about ways to control pollution and then think about building bridges, says ‘Forest man of India’ Jadav Payeng

“Before cutting down the trees, they should have planted more trees. Why don’t they build the bridge across the river? In that way, the trees would be saved. So the government should first think about ways to control the pollution and then think about building bridges,” Payeng said.

The Public Works Department (PWD) had proposed to fell more than 300 trees in the Bharalumukh area for constructing a bridge over the Brahmaputra which will connect the southern bank of the river with North Guwahati.

Payeng also left a message for the public and the government, saying: “The public or the government have to breathe oxygen from trees, even if they are not planting trees. So I am pleading everyone to stop chopping down trees.”

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