A thousand trees have been cut ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Odisha on Tuesday, leading to three government departments shifting blame on to one another, reported The Indian Express.
The trees were cleared to make space for a temporary helipad in Balangir for the Prime Minister’s use. Narendra Modi will be flagging off the inaugural run of a train on the Khurda-Balangir railway line from Balangir station.
Balangir Divisional Forest Officer Sameer Satpathy told reporters on Sunday that the trees had been cut without obtaining permission from the forest department. “When our staff tried to stop the cutting of trees, the site in-charge said that there had been strict instructions from higher authorities to make space for the helipad,” Satpathy was quoted as saying by Odisha TV. He valued the trees at Rs 2.5 lakh.
A spokesperson for the East Coast Railways said that the Railways merely owned the land, but it was the Public Works Department that had carried out the work. PWD personnel claimed they had “no idea” who had cut the trees.
The trees in question had been planted under an urban plantation programme in 2.25 hectares of Railways land, of which 1.5 hectares of land was cleared. There was no vacant space for the Prime Minister’s helicopter to land, Balangir Superintendent of Police K Siva Subramani was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
The Indian Express reported that the Odisha government was criticised for attempting to clear land to set up a brewery in Dhenkanal in November. Local women had clashed with the police and the local administration after hundreds of trees had been cut down at the time.