Gangtok: Despite opposition from residents, a century-old heritage tree at the old STNM Hospital in Gangtok was cut down on Thursday night. The tree was reportedly chopped off to make room for an upcoming under construction multi-storey parking and shopping complex.

Even as the residents of Gangtok have been opposing the felling of the tree for the projects, the State Forest Department and the Gangtok Smart City project, who are looking after the construction, issued an order to cut down the 100-year-old tree using an excavator on Thursday night.

Notably, the Sikkim Forest Department issued a letter for chopping off the century-old tree on February 9 this year.

The letter mentioned, “Approval is hereby granted to translocate the said tree during onset of rainy season to an identified spot (lower altitude) in coordination with GSCDL officials.”

The Gangtok Smart City Development Limited with the signature of the Gangtok Territorial Divisional Forest Officer forwarded the copy to Divisional Engineer, Gangtok Smart City.

Despite stiff opposition from the residents, the forest department officials cut down the tree late at night.

The Sikkim Nagrik Samaj was vehemently opposing the felling of the tree. On June 30, members of the Sikkim Nagrik Samaj along with other residents assembled near the heritage tree in a bid to oppose its felling.

Speaking on the religious significance, Sikkim Nagrik Samaj’s general secretary Pasang Sherpa said, “We have assembled with the intention of safeguarding this historic as well as religious spot. We see Sikkim as a holy place. The recent felling of another Peepal tree has affected people’s lives. The departments concerned must understand that the tree holds religious sentiment for Buddhist and Hindu devotees. There are modern techniques through which the tree can be saved and we will support if the conservation happens in that manner. The world has grown on technology and architectural marvel to safe guard tree. Before people were scared of cutting trees, but now due to rampant deforestation, people have started the same. The cutting of this heritage tree will lead to such deforestation in the future.”

Meanwhile, Hamro Sikkim Party President Bina Basnet stated, “We have to save the environment. In this area we do not have parks. We had one park in Millennium Park, and everyone is aware how we lost that park. There are a few open spaces with trees which we must safeguard. It must be our priority. If we allow every tree to be cut, Sikkim will soon lost its green cover. We have to stand up at the right time. If we do not stand now, we may not be able to save the nature.”

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