The government’s move  to auction the green  belt near the mental hospital in Amritsar has raised a widespread ecological concern
‘We are digging our graves by felling trees’
Sanjay Bumbroo and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, June 10
A cross section of the city residents have unanimously castigated the state government for axing a large number of trees at the local Dr Vidya Sagar Mental Institute to pave way for the construction of multiplexes. The mindless destruction of trees, plants and shrubs to make places for constructing residential and commercial buildings has already played havoc with the eco system of the city.

Dr G.S. Bhalla
Dr G.S. Bhalla

Says Prof G.S. Bhalla, department of business and commerce, Guru Nanak Dev University. “What to talk about the approval for cutting of trees, I cannot even think in my wildest dreams about the ‘murder’ of trees at this critical juncture in the history of the civilisation. We should not repeat the folly committed by previous civilisations and dig our graves.”

Quoting Arnold Toynbee, a noted historian, that most of the civilisations had become extinct because of the neglect of the ecological concerns.

An ardent admirer of Sunder Lal Bahuguna who said the question is no longer of striking a balance between economic development and environmental degradation but that of survival and extinction, he said in case the trees in Amritsar were cut at the present rate, in a few years from now Amritsar would have almost nil forest cover and would be most unfortunate. Besides affecting the health of the citizens of the city, the brunt would have to be borne by the holy Golden Temple, Durgiana Temple and historic Jallianwala Bagh.
He said a parking complex was already coming up at Saragharhi Memorial Town Hall School after cutting hundreds of old trees.

The government’s claim that the money earned by the auction of the mental hospital land would be utilised for the development of the city was a far-fetched dream. He said the amount should remain in the custody of people with integrity and honesty, who should decide about how the money should be spent.

Prof Bhalla said felling of the trees reflected the poor state of the mind of the government and the hollowness of the claim made by BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, who proclaimed Amritsar to become green and clean city. He said he had already taken up cudgels against some erring institutions, which had cut old trees to pave way for cycle stands and waiting rooms.

Dr Suresh Chauhan
Dr Suresh Chauhan

Dr Suresh Chauhan, medicinal plant expert and renowned Ayurvedic doctor is perturbed over the mindless axing of hundreds of old trees. Coming down heavily on the government, Dr Chauhan says the policy of making the multiplexes on the green spaces of the city is totally absurd.

He said a disaster awaited the residents of the city, which was experiencing seasonal shift because of global warming. Citing the recent example of squalls and unseasonable rains during the hottest months of May and June signified the level of natural upheavals due to plying foul with the ecosystem.

Dr Chauhan said when the temperatures in May and June would touch 45 degrees Celsius, now there were intense humidity with oppressive summer conditions. The humanity should learn to respect the nature and allow it to protect it and its environment. He said the government must go for balanced development and not encourage concrete jungles around the key and holy cities like Amritsar. He said the people must rise to defend their natural resources as the new generations would not forgive them for the destruction of the green cover.

Dr Chauhan said, “The trees like peepal, borh and mango, which arre part of our ancient heritage, provide us oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. The mangoes are excellent species of nature’s bounty which absorb a lot of carbon dioxide and give us more and more oxygen round the clock. The destruction of trees would destroy our natural habitat and the rare birds like sparrow would disappear from the earth. The government must involve the people who are the stakeholders to decide about the environment. The state has no right to destroy the natural heritage, which would bring the city on the brink of disaster.”

He said the money collected from the auction of green cover should be used to develop more green spaces in and around the city to provide healthy environment for the large population of the growing city. He said the government had already approved a number of multiplexes and residential colonies around the city, which had already changed the environment of the city.

Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar
Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar

Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjer, renowned radiologist is aghast at the proposal to cut trees in Vidya Sagar Mental Hospital for building a commercial complex for the benefit of a few.

The man, who has been in the forefront of developing green spaces in the city, said it would be the people’s movement which could only stop the government from taking the harsh axing of the trees. He said the city was already under seize due to large buildings and commercial complexes underway in and around the city, which had already destroyed flora and fauna.

Dr Nijjer, who has founded and promoted environmental society, is very touchy about the trees and plants. He said he had been having sleepless nights and was considerably disturbed at the very idea of destroying the ancient tree covers of the mental hospital to pave way for a multistory complex and hotel.

He said the government should move all construction activity to designated sites outside the city and maintain the ecological balance.

He said firstly he would oppose the construction activity at the mental hospital, which would harm the surroundings of the sanatorium, and only if the people of the area and the city approved of the axing of trees, the money generated from the auction should be spent as per the wishes of the residents of the city.

He suggested that the entire amount should be kept in the holy corpus for the development of the infrastructure, which had been in a state of neglect.

He said the city had no master plan and lacked areas designated for commercial, residential and shopping complexes and the entire development works were done in a haphazard manner with ad hoc approach. He said the government must initiate proper scientific and comprehensive development while keeping with the whishes of the residents who should be the final arbitrators about the projects of development launched in the city.

Dr Nijjer said the city had seen some mind-boggling building activity which happened to destroy its tradition as a number of green areas had been converted into concrete jungles. He said the government must restore its old glory and construction should be avoided to maintain its heritage.

Prof Joginder Singh
Prof Joginder Singh

Prof J.S. Jogi, former professor of English, GND varsity. The principal cause of deforestation is the need for wood to be used as firewood or in construction and making of paper and furniture as well as to clear land for commercial and industrial development.

These ventures are carried out in the name of progress, but rarely do we ponder over the loss being caused due to the sources getting depleted as a result of these very ventures.

Our consummation of the sources is much more and faster than what we strive to restore to recompense for our future generations. Just to cite a brief observation, we take the case of two states - Rajasthan and Punjab.

Rajasthan, the area of Rajputs, has 5 per cent of its area under forest cover.

On the other hand, Punjab, the land of five rivers, known to be fertile by virtue of water and vegetation, has only 3 per cent of its area under forest cover.

The newly undertaken strides of land sharks are mercilessly speeding to deforest this land of its natural benedictions, perhaps to make it a land of stones rather than let it remain content with the vast pastures of crops producing arable prairies.

In Himachal Pradesh, cutting of a tree is a criminal offence. Can’t we have the same ruling applicable in Punjab too?

But the Punjabis are land hungry and they do not mind denuding mother earth in order to swell their coffers. All over Punjab, and now specially in Amritsar, the newly sprung spree of devastating the green cover under the name of progress and modernisation, vast areas of forests or tree-dense areas are being slashed or uprooted for building multiplexes for marketing material products.

Sitting behind tinted glasses in air-conditioned enclosures, the neo-rich magnates know little about what nature really means as was lamented by Wordsworth long ago. Bhai Veer Singh, the Amritsari doyen of Punjabi literature, had great love for the natural surroundings of the city.

Since trees have always been regarded as god-given shelters, these have become symbols of worship even under certain beliefs. Trees are a visible show of nature’s benediction that provides shelter and wood and fruit to meet the needs of man’s living.

For birds, trees are the only refuge for their sustenance in the environment. Many reptiles and insects find existence by virtue of trees.

To maintain an eco-friendly balance of the biodegradable renewable resources, it is essential to manage and maintain the forest lands. All growth on earth is the proof of mother earth’s sense of concern for the species that have been ordained to live on it.



Autos plying without papers: Social activist
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, June 10
Social activist Brij Bedi today launched a major campaign to detect autorickshaws plying without proper documents and learning skills.

Bedi checked the papers and driving licences of number of autorickshaw drivers near the bus stand and he found that none of the drivers had an authorised driving licence, besides all of them have not taken any driving tests thus jeopardising the lives of passengers.

He said a number of autorickshaws were emitting thick smoke and defying all pollution norms and were a big hazard to the environment of the city. He said the city had more than 10,000 autorickshaws plying on different routes carrying thousands of passengers, including schoolchildren, daily without any training.

He said no autorickshaw had been paying any road tax and were operating without valid documents.

He urged the police and the district administration to maintain a proper check on them and also monitor the reliability of the vehicles which were in ramshackle conditions. He said a special task force was required to educate the autorickshaw drivers about the safety and the traffic rules.



Sidhu’s city facelift plan ready

Amritsar, June 10
Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP, who had initiated a major project to change the face of the holy city with the grant of Rs 100 crore received from the Punjab government, has planned to make a presentation to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on June 13 to give a complete picture of the project, which would be undertaken to improve the infrastructure of the city. 

The project includes the complete revamping of the road network of the city, removing congestion in the streets and lanes, restructuring and redesigning of traffic roundabouts, besides setting up solid waste management plant and to improve the efficiency of civil amenities.

The MP pointed out that the project would make the city into a model town. — OC



Building Care
INTACH denies being approached by SGPC
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, June 10
Sukhdev Singh, Punjab state convener of the Indian National Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage (INTACH), said the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has not approached conservation experts from INTACH for the conservation of historical buildings belonging to great Sikh history.

Earlier, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar had claimed that they were consulting INTACH experts for the preservation of historical haveli at Fatehgarh Sahib in an English daily.INTACH convener said they had no idea of conservation work being carried out by the SGPC.

He said about a year ago, on a written invitation from the secretary, SGPC, their experts had prepared a preliminary project report on the conservation of Baba Atal Ji. However, they evinced no response on that matter or any other matter since then.He said Punjab was replete with number of historical monuments, which were in various stages of decay, and the government without any policy on tourism and conservation had been allowing 
these buildings to further deteriorate.



My City
‘Chaos rules the roost’

Amritsar, idolised as the “pool of the nectar of immortality” is the holiest of the holy Sikh regimes. Despite witnessing a rapid urban economic growth through planned development of multiplexes on Mall Road and Lawrence Road and residential projects on the outskirts, the city still needs a lot of work to be done in matters relating to public welfare like construction of roads, sewage management and a rapid transport system to name a few.

Considered to be the “Mecca of Sikhs” and an important place of pilgrimage, the traffic menace is a cause of great inconvenience to the pilgrims and residents.

Even shopkeepers encroach upon footpaths forcing the commuters to park their vehicles on roads. A glimpse on the roads offers a view full of potholes and scattered garbage.

The tourism industry has also suffered due to the miserable conditions of roads. The traffic police has failed to enforce a ban on pressure horns, especially in the vicinity of hospitals and schools. The beauty of the holy city is further marred by hoardings, graffiti and obscene posters. Over the years many historical heritage buildings have disappeared, while others have been pulled down. It seems that both the administration and citizens are vandalising the sanctity of the city reducing it to a place comprising marriage palaces and colonies. We have to redeem our sacred city to make it more beautiful before anyone gives it the tag of a “chaotic city”.

— A Correspondent



Theatre knows no boundaries: Raj Babbar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 10
Theatre has a universal appeal and is not bound by religion or region. This was stated by theatre artiste and film star Raj Babbar at the inauguration of a month-long workshop here on Saturday.

The event is being organised by Manch-Rangmanch in collaboration with the National School of Drama, New Delhi, and Punarjyot. More than 30 persons, including seven delegates from Pakistan, are participating in it.

Babbar said theatre was a unique platform to represent human emotions. Besides, it reflected different hues of society. Emphasising on importance of discipline, he said the young artistes had a lot of talent and they could become good performers if given a stage. He urged the business houses to enter the theatre world and support artistes to promote performing arts.

Punjabi playwright Kewal Dhaliwal said the workshop would provide an opportunity to the artistes to show their talent.



VDSB is commercialising faith: Lal
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 10
A delegation of devotees from the city would visit Katra to protest against the ‘autocratic decision’ of the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (VDSB) to charge fee from the devotees for paying obeisance at Vaishno Devi Shrine.

Stating this to the media, Prof Darbari Lal, former deputy speaker, strongly flayed the decision of the board and said instead of offering more facilities to the pilgrims it was indulging in commercialisation of faith.

Lakhs of devotees visit the holy shrine after arranging travel fare with much hardships and charging fee from them is totally unjustified, said Prof Lal.



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