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Green ‘vanishes’ before PM visit

The ground where the saplings were chopped belongs to the railways

By Subhashish Mohanty in Bhubaneswar
  • Published 14.01.19, 1:04 AM
  • Updated 14.01.19, 10:59 AM
  • a min read
The ground in Balangir where the saplings have allegedly been cut The Telegraph picture

The Odisha forest department has ordered a probe after 1,200 saplings planted under an urban green drive were chopped, allegedly to construct a helipad near the venue of a public meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address in Balangir on Tuesday.

The ground where the saplings were chopped belongs to the railways and is located adjacent to the Balangir station, around 330km from Bhubaneswar.

The forest department has accused East Coast Railway of not taking the department’s permission, required under loans, before cutting the saplings. Following the complaint, divisional forest officer (DFO) Samir Satpathy has started a probe. The saplings had grown to heights of five to six feet.

“Around 30,000 saplings were planted in different locations of the town in 2015-16 and 2016-17. A total of 3,500 saplings were planted near the railway station. Nearly 1,200 saplings were uprooted and chopped off. We have started an inquiry into the incident and also are in touch with rail officials,” Satpathy said. The state government had spent around Rs 10 lakh on the green drive.

J.P. Mishra, chief public relations officer of East Coast Railway, said: “Making the ground ready for the landing of the chopper is the responsibility of the public works department of the Odisha government. All agencies are involved for making the ground ready for the Prime Minister’s visit. As an inquiry is on, it will be inappropriate to make any comment further on the issue. All things have been video-graphed.”

Another senior railway official maintained that the land was filled with raw material used for the construction of tracks.

“We have cleared only these. Everything was video-graphed. We will submit all evidence before the inquiring authorities at the right time,” the official said.

Balangir, in western Odisha, is considered a BJP stronghold. This will be Modi’s third visit to Odisha in 30 days. He is scheduled to launch a slew of projects worth Rs 1,545 crore.

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