Social media route to save highway trees

For the first time, the Karnataka State Highway Improvement Project (KSHIP) has invited people’s participation via social networking websites to attend their weekly meetings and chip in their suggestions.

The implementation of infrastructure projects comes with a huge price. Several trees are axed to the pave way for such projects. Citizens hitherto had neither been consulted, nor were their suggestions sought for alternative measures.

Environmentalist Vinay Sreenivasa said that this was the first time a government organisation had sought people’s participation in its projects. So far, no agency, including the BDA and the BBMP, had ever consulted the citizens on the felling of trees. Citizens should attend such meetings and make the maximum of it, he said.

KSHIP is presently working on six World Bank and nine Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded road-widening and upgrading projects in the State, which requires several trees to be cut down. In order to search for alternative means that would help avoid the chopping of trees, KSHIP chief project officer P Manivannan has tapped the social media websites to reach out to the masses. He has invited people to the KSHIP weekly meetings and give their suggestions.

Manivannan told Deccan Herald that people can suggest alternatives routes, if possible, so that trees can be saved on all the stretches.

Several felled, few saved

Under the World Bank aid, work on 274 kilometres has been taken up. KSHIP has estimated to cut 16,179 trees, of which 16,147 have already been axed, while 30 were saved. Under the ADB project, 615 km of road works are being taken up. As many as 27,490 trees have been estimated to be axed, of which 23,649 have been felled and 3,307 have been saved.

So far, KSHIP has organised 25 officers’ review meetings and the public has not participated in any. These are regular weekly meetings held at KSHIP office. Instead of moving files, work status, problems and solutions are discussed openly and a consensus is drawn. This helps in completing projects faster and brings in transparency, an official said.

KSHIP believes in the principle of planting 200 saplings on both sides of the road for every kilometre of road work undertaken. The Forest department is granted Rs 1,500 to maintain each sapling of different species for three years. The saplings are later planted along the sides of the road after the works are completed.

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