Kolkata, April 20 (IANS) Over 8,000 people have signed an online petition against “mass butchering” of trees for widening of a road in West Bengal’s North 24-Parganas while others have turned to art and filmmaking to take the discourse forward.
A 10-minute video surfaced online showcasing grassroot protests over cutting of at least 4,000 trees to widen the Jessore Road which runs from Kolkata to Petrapole on the India-Bangladesh border.
In the video, artists condemn the felling of trees through performance art, where the artist’s medium is the body, and the live actions he or she performs are the work of art.
Petitioning the National Green Tribunal, World Green Tribunal, Centre, Chief Justice of India and the President, signatories to the petition on Change.org have said: “Chopping off 4,000 trees will result in severe habitat loss of the organisms dwelling in the trees and in support of the trees.”
The petition said: “In order to decongest NH-35 and Jessore Road, which stretches from Kolkata airport to Petrapole border via Barasat, the state government has chalked out a number of plans.”
“This includes building a flyover at Barasat Dakbanglo crossing, an underpass at Madhyamgram Chowmatha and widening of a seven km stretch between the airport and Dakbanglo More to ease traffic flow, say officials. One end of the flyover has been planned to link Jessore Road,” it added.
The petition also quoted sources in the state Secretariat saying that senior Public Works Department officials held a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways in New Delhi where these proposals were discussed.
The ministry has agreed to sanction funds for part of the project, the petition said.
The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) over the issue with the Calcutta High Court.
Meanwhile, the 10-minute film “Gachheder Katha: A Story of Jessore Road Trees” by Chandan Biswas captures the sentiments of locals who have opposed the “illegal felling” of trees.
A performance art titled “Ritual” has been shot in the locality by the group Pandemonium.
A tree-hugging protest has also been planned on April 23 in the area.
However, the state government said no complaints have been registered with them.
“The PWD takes permission for expansion of roads and cutting of trees from the forest department and it has to carry out compensatory forestation. I do not know what the details are, if they (the PWD or NHAI) are cutting the trees and have not taken permission. Without the details I cannot comment,” Chandan Sinha, Principal Secretary at Departments of Environment and Forests, West Bengal, told IANS on Thursday.