The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) plans to upgrade the NH37 four-lane highway into a six-lane from Basistha to Jalukbari to streamline the city’s traffic and strengthen road connectivity in Northeast India. The project, which also involves the construction of four bridges at Gorchuk, Boragaon, Lokhra, and Basistha Chariali, will cost about Rs 356.02 crore.

However, the project caused a huge controversy when 2,500 trees were axed to make way for the project. This is yet another incident in recent years that the state capital has lost a large chunk of green cover, leaving Guwahati residents more vulnerable to high pollution levels.

In a conversation with EastMojo, Mubina Akhtar, an environmental journalist, author and activist based in Guwahati, termed the felling of trees ‘atrocious’ given the alarming air quality in the city, which has hovered between poor and moderate in the past one month.

As per research, a human being requires 740 kg of oxygen every year to breathe healthily. Moloy Baruah, an environmentalist who has put more than 25 years of his life into conserving forests across the Northeast expressed extreme concern over the rise in the level of carbon dioxide in the air due to the felling of trees.

The felling of the trees will not only affect the environment, it will also take a toll on a person’s physical and mental well-being, said Sibanee Goyal, a climate activist and a member of the Guwahati chapter of FridaysforFuture, a youth-led movement against the climate crisis who cited the research from the National Library of Medicine.

While speaking of the compensation caused by the damages by the felling of the trees, Baruah suggested planting 12,000 trees in the Garbhanga Reserve Forest.

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