Citizens of Guwahati plan to come out on the streets yet again to raise their voices against the merciless felling of more than 2500 trees to convert the 4-lane NH 27 (old NH 37) to a 6-lane road.
The East Kamrup Forest Division recently revealed that 300 trees, approximately 70-80 years old, were cut during the two years in the COVID-19 pandemic for various infrastructural projects such as flyovers and roads.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, while the citizens were stuck inside houses, many trees were chopped for infrastructural development, leaving no options for them to raise their voices.
“Citizens have decided that they shall not be silent spectators anymore and shall hug the trees and form a human chain to express their dissatisfaction and create awareness on the importance of conserving age-old trees – following the suit of Sunderlal Bahugana and the women activists in the Chipko Movement, which inspires millions till today,” said a statement released by Fridays For Future, Guwahati.
Karnika Goswami, a student of MA Linguistics at Delhi University, said: “Cutting down 2500 trees is a drastic step. We must protect these trees at any cost. This must feel personal to us – to try and save these trees. We must channelise our climate anxieties and come together for the sake of our city.”
In the World Air Quality Report, 2021, prepared by a Swiss Organisation, IQAir, it was stated that based on air quality data collected from 6,475 cities in 117 countries, 63 out of 100 cities with the worst air quality were in India. In a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Guwahati turned out to be the most polluted city in the entire Northeast region with a winter average PM2.5 of 81 ug/m3. PM2.5 concentration of Guwahati’s air is currently 32.8 times above the WHO annual air quality standards and falls into the “very unhealthy” category.
On the importance of trees inside the city, Aditya Das, biologist at Kamlang Tiger Reserve, said: “Trees contribute to the environment by sequestration of oxygen, improvisation of air quality and important ecosystem services like soil preservation, climate amelioration thereby supporting a large niche of wildlife. Urban trees play a huge role in reducing urban flooding by holding the water runoff and slowing down winds by reducing excessive heat loss from buildings. Most importantly, they are home to urban wildlife. Is cutting trees for infrastructural development, in this case, a 6-lane road, a solution to the problem of convenient mobility or a problem towards long term inconvenience?”
The newly released 2nd part of the 6th assessment of the IPCC report alarms: “Globally, heat and humidity will create conditions beyond human tolerance if emissions are not rapidly eliminated. India is among the places to experience these intolerable conditions.”
The Paris Agreement of 2015 seeks to keep the global rise in temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times, a reference to the period between 1850 and 1900 while working towards restricting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists have warned that until immediate actions are taken to rein in the rise in temperatures, even the 2-degree Celsius goal would become out of reach.
“If our intention is to create more road space to accommodate more of our personal vehicles, we must also understand that it will only encourage more and more people to buy cars because the roads and the bridges have not reached full capacity yet. In the next 6 to 12 months, we will realise that the extra widened space which we created is again filled up by cars. So, to question our choice, which is called development, where are we really going with 1000s of trees being cut down for bridges after bridges and multiple lane roads?” asks Ashadeep Baruah, a social activist from Guwahati.