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Trees make way for CM's herbal garden dream.

UTTARAKHAND chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank's dream of laying out a herbal garden in Dehradun's Lachhiwala forest has come to a sudden halt after 140 trees were chopped at a reserve forest.

Following media reports and protests by environmentalists, the Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation ( UFDC), which had undertaken the work for the forest department, stopped felling trees last week.

As many as 246 trees were to be chopped to make space for the 5.4-- hectare herbal garden in the Lachhiwala reserve forest.

The area selected for the garden is home to several species of trees, including kher , semal , kukat , shisam , silver oak and kanju . Of the 140 trees felled by the UFDC, some were more than 70 years old. The forest department has, however, claimed the trees were ' past their prime' and not of rare species.

On Friday morning, the Dehradun district forest office had ordered the Lachhiwala range officer to stop the felling of trees.

The forest department claims it had taken prior permission for cutting the trees. Chief conservator of Garhwal DVS Khatti said: " The Dehradun forest office obtained permission for felling the trees from the chief conservator of forests ( working plan), who is the competent authority in the matter." Unhappy with the decision, Citizens for Green Doon ( a local environmental group) submitted a memorandum to Uttarakhand's principal chief conservator of forests, RBS Rawat. They Trees make way for CM's herbal garden dream demanded the felling of trees be stopped immediately and that a garden be developed without felling trees.

Clarifying the department's stand, district forest officer Meenakshi Joshi said: " The land was an abandoned nursery of the forest department. We plan to develop a herbal garden and a plantation training centre for self- help groups there. About 250 trees have been marked for felling under the project." The project had long been in the pipeline. The forest department had even built the boundary wall for the proposed garden. On Friday, after the cutting was stopped, the felled trees were taken to the Raiwala depot of the department.

The project was also criticised for lack of viability. In the past, the forest department set up a herbal garden at Muni-- ki-- Reti in Rishikesh. The garden, named after Dr Sushila Tiwari, the late wife of ex-- chief minister N. D. Tiwari, has so far failed miserably to become economically viable.

Given the failure of Muni-- ki -- Reti, it is unclear why the forest department thought of developing a similar garden.

Despite the non-- viability of herbal gardens, the state government plans to develop more of them, including one in each district. Dehradun already has one such garden in Rishikesh.

Lachhiwala is a popular picnic spot in Dehradun.

Tourists visit the site for its natural beauty. The streams passing through the forest are also used for swimming by tourists. It is an especially big draw in summer.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 27, 2010
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