Haryana Forest Minister Rao Narbir Singh on Sunday said that felling of trees was needed to bring about development in cities. “Jahan vikas hoga, wahan pedon ka vinash zaruri hai (where development takes place, the destruction of trees is necessary),” Singh said in an interview with the Hindustan Times.

The state Public Works Department plans to cut 1,300 trees to construct an underpass and a flyover at Atul Kataria Chowk in Gurugram to ease the movement of vehicles to New Delhi, reported the Hindustan Times. The department has sought permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

A group of citizens and environmental activists have protested against the plan. They have sent a legal notice to the PWD, the National Highway Authority of India, and the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon for destroying the green belt by placing heavy machinery, reported The Times of India.

Singh said building the flyover and underpass was “a necessity”, citing heavy traffic jams along the stretch. “The activists will feel the pinch when they get stuck in a traffic jam there,” he said. “I say a thousand trees should be planted instead of 100, but the flyover will be constructed.” He said that the PWD must ensure that no trees are unnecessarily cut down.

Singh added that the state government had initiated a Paudhagiri campaign across the state to ensure forest cover in Haryana goes up. Through this scheme, the government aims to involve 25 lakh students, from Class 6 to Class 12, each of whom will plant a tree and look after it. Each student will be paid an incentive of Rs 50 every year from the government. “The forest department will distribute the plants to students and the education department will monitor the plantation,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Delhi High Court had banned the felling of trees in the city till further orders. More than 1,500 trees were cut down in the national Capital in order to redevelop seven colonies in south Delhi. Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri had proposed to plant saplings in other places to make up for the felled trees.