Jadav Payeng Bats for Guwahati’s Ill-fated Trees

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Jadav Payeng Bats for Guwahati’s Ill-fated Trees

Atiqul Habib | November 23, 2019 15:41 hrs

G Plus impact: Guwahatians apprehensive about bridge that will cost Rs 1,925 Cr, over 250 trees

The question is of 250 trees and their lives which face the danger of the axe in favour of a man-made structure. G Plus last week gave a voice to the voiceless trees and detailed on how a planned Rs 1,925 crore bridge connecting the north and south banks of Guwahati puts in danger the continued existence of these trees.

Echoing similar sentiments, Jadav Payeng, famously known as the `Forest Man of India’ jumped into the ring to save these trees.

The Guwahati-North Guwahati bridge project across the Brahmaputra River which is planned for completion in the next four years aims to clear the mangrove from a stretch from Fancy Bazar to Kalipur area in Guwahati for the state-of-the-art extradosed bridge.

An extradosed bridge employs a structure that combines the main elements of both a prestressed box girder bridge and a cable-stayed bridge.

In the wake to protect the age-old trees, the citizens of Guwahati have formed a co-ordination committee – Citizens’ Co-ordination Committee - which is leading the way to save the age-old trees from getting killed.

After failing to get any positive response from the state government, the committee, on November 18, called in the ‘Forest Man of India’ to represent the trees which have been giving a breather to the city for decades.

Padma Shri Jadav Payeng visited the Shankardev Park in Guwahati on November 19 earlier in protest against the proposed idea of the state government of replacing these trees with concrete slabs and pillars.

“Who gave the government or anyone for that matter the idea to cut down these rare and age-old trees? The trees are also home to various bird species. If these trees are felled, where will the birds go? It will be another big blow towards maintaining a healthy and balanced ecology. Moreover, if the government moves ahead with its plan, in the next ten years, the city will be in the same situation as Delhi is in right now,” said Payeng. He also said that deforestation, especially near the Brahmaputra would create more floods in the coming years and it was necessary to plant more trees near the Brahmaputra, also known as the red river.

Considered a treasure trove of information on nature, Jadav Payang, known as the Forest Man of India, talked exclusively to G Plus. Here are the excerpts from the conversation.

What do you have to say about government’s decision of cutting down 250 trees?

I will speak to the higher authorities and ask what kind of planning has been done. There have been many instances in India where people protested against cutting down trees. Hence now it should not be repeated in Assam. After analysing I wonder what is wrong in building the bridge on the sidelines of the river. Hence, if they can alter the plan it will be good for the present and the future generation of the people of Guwahati.

If the government does not agree with the proposal, what step are you going to take?

I will speak to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, if required and also seek help from a technical committee for suggestion as in what can be done to tackle the issue. It’s not only Guwahati but also the entire India as previously the country has witnessed many sacrifices of trees on the way to civilization. Whatever the government declared in 2015 of cutting down trees has been done but now there should be an end to this as the technical/planning committee should come up with alternative plans of building or constructing without disturbing nature.

You said that the trees which are marked to cut down are all because of our education system? What is the problem with the education system in India?

Recently I was in Mussoorie for an event wherein I interacted with many IAS officers and students and found out that there were only four from Assam. Sadly I did not find a single Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer from Assam in the 2019 batch. Assam is known for its greenery but not a single person to know and understand it. Hence we should upgrade our education system so that our future generation can build interest about nature and Assam.

The students should be nurtured about nature right from kindergarten section so that they can become as good as the scientists of yester years or the prophets of mankind. Currently it is only in Germany wherein children from kindergarten are taught about nature and how to take care of it. So students protect the trees and no one can cut trees.

Once in Europe I met a few Indian students and congratulated them for getting a chance to study in such prestigious institutions. However I requested them to come back to India and work together for the welfare and development of the nation.

The students should be given the choice to study only those subjects they love and must not be forced with some extra or additional baggage.

The forest created by Payeng (nick-named Molai) is known as Molai Kathoni by local residents. Payeng, belonging to the Mising tribe of upper Assam, decided to leave his commune to live with nature when he was just 19. A vast expanse of barren land near Kokilamukh in Assam left behind by the Brahmaputra became his abode where he lives with his cattle. 

It is to be mentioned that earlier, the famous Bogibeel road-cum-bridge project across the Brahmaputra saw many trees being felled in both the districts to clear ways for the project.

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