Civic workers felled at least five trees in a seven-cottah park popular among children In Behala’s Parnasree on Sunday to clear the plot for a community centre.
Residents said six men employed by the city’s civic agency axed down the trees in the park, a five-minute walk from mayor Sovan Chatterjee’s house, in the morning. They were upset because Hati Park not only lost its canopy but also the elephant-shaped slide that gave the playground its name, a seesaw and a swing.
“The trees were large and have almost grown with me. There was a large Balaramchura and a Kadam, both of which were felled. I noticed the hacking in the morning and enquired. The workers told me they were instructed to clear the place for a community centre that would come up here. Even if there are plans to build one, the trees could have been there. The trees along the ground’s edges,” said Subhabrata Nandi, 40, whose house is adjacent to the park.
An engineer in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) borough XIV office said Hati Park has been chosen for a community centre since the area doesn’t have one.
“This is not an enlisted park of the CMC. It was actually a plot for storing goods and trees have grown there over the years. We will build a community centre there,” he added.
Sources said permission from the CMC’s parks and gardens department was required for any construction on an open playground.
But the department was unaware of the plan to build a community centre on the plot. “Every single tree in the CMC area belongs to the civic body. Forget felling, even trimming a branch is not allowed without permission,” said a CMC official.
Mayor Chatterjee’s statement corroborated the engineer’s. “This plot was not a park. Children rarely visited the place. There are some good parks in the vicinity, hence we decided to build a community hall here,” he said.
“Only three trees in the middle of the plot were cut while those on the edge were trimmed. We will plant trees to make up for the ones that have been felled,” the mayor added.