The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tree test for town plan
- Referendum in siliguri before felling

Siliguri, Dec. 29: To fell or not to fell is the issue being put to vote. Siliguri Municipal Corporation is asking people to choose between trees or traffic snarls.

Not willing to take chances, the corporation has opted for the ballot to decide the future of the road. This is the first time the civic body is seeking a referendum to resolve an issue.

“Since felling trees is a sensitive matter, we want the people to exercise their democratic rights and decide for themselves whether or not they are prepared to pay the price for development,” mayor Bikash Ghosh said.

On January 4, about 20,000 people from the four wards in the Sevoke Road area will cast their votes. “Only those who have their names in the voters’ list will be entitled to exercise their franchise,” the mayor said. “Polling booths will be set up at the P.C. Mittal bus terminus. The votes have to be cast between 9 am and 3 pm.”

“The list of trees has been prepared and we have also obtained a no-objection certificate from the forest department,” Ghosh said.

There are 122 trees on the stretch.

The corporation’s executive officer, G. Namchu, said: “It is necessary to remove the trees to widen the road into a four-lane stretch.”

“The number of vehicles plying on the Sevoke Road is increasing by the day and is almost choking it. It is time we find a solution to the problem. The Rs 5-crore project seeks to broaden the stretch from Panitanki More to Bypass. There will be a median and big drains will flank it on both sides. Rs 51 lakh has been sanctioned to shift the lamp posts from their existing positions,” Namchu added.

The process of planting trees — ten for each one felled — will soon bee taken up, he said. So far, no green group has voiced protest.

“We had initially protested the felling. But after hearing about the corporation’s plan to plant more trees elsewhere, we have withdrawn,” said Sujit Raha, secretary of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

“Moreover, if the roads are not widened, the traffic chaos will increase, leading to more environmental hazards,” Raha added.

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