Nainital: Residents of Nainital are worried about the future of the tourist town as illegal construction activity still continue despite a series of orders by Uttarakhand High Court to check construction, especially in eco- fragile zones. Old grove, on the way to snow view, is always a point of discussion among concerned people, allegedly for illegal construction.
Illegal Construction And Killing Of Trees Continue
Recently, secretary, District Development Authority, Harvir Singh raided the Old Grove on a complaint and was shocked to find a big hole on the main Birla road, allegedly to facilitate storage of the construction material. When measured, the total material accumulated there was approximately 54 cubic meters. However, Harbir Singh was quoted saying that construction at the site was stopped one and a half year ago for flouting norms but that may not be the reality? Or else why was construction material being stored in the night and that, too, in a huge quantity?
Not only illegal construction continues, several oak trees have also been damaged and gradually they will die. The branches of oak trees, life line of the hills, have been cut and construction done close to the trees, violating forest norms clearly stating that no construction activity can take place within a 3 meter periphery around the tree. Then why the forest department issued no- objection certificate and why don't they act if they are not at fault? Planned killing of trees is happening in a number of other places, not only at Old Grove.
Trees can be damaged or killed by a wide variety of construction activities. Some practices lead to obvious injuries such as broken branches or torn bark. Open wounds of this type deplete a plant's energy resources and provide entry points for insects.
A tree's protected root zone (PRZ) is often considered to be the part of the roots that lie directly below its branches within an area known as the dripline. However, many roots extend beyond the longest branches a distance equal to two or more times the height of the tree. Dripline area needs to be isolated from construction disturbance.
No construction activity can occur in that zone - that means grading, digging, storing of materials, and all traffic. However, for best results, the radius of the protective zone should be about twice the tree's height. But in Nainital every possible efforts are being made to kill trees. Builders in connivance with district administration officials have been violating Supreme Court orders as influential officials and politicians have a stake in illegal construction business. The catchment area of the lake has also witnessed illegal constructions. Town residents allege a new trend in illegal constructions has been witnessed in Nainital over the years. People place empty cement bags filled with sand on encroached upon land and construct a building that will later turn into a tourist resort.
Geologically, Nainital is very fragile as it is bound by two thrusts (a thrust is a high angle dislocation plane on the surface of the Earth or below the surface). The Main Boundary Thrust forms the southern boundary and the Ramgarh Thrust forms the northern boundary of Nainital. There are several other fault lines, such as the Nainital fault, the Giwalikhet fault and the Kuriya fault, which are responsible for the fragility of the region.
Moreover, the mountains in Nainital are made of calcium and magnesium carbonate rocks, making them all the more fragile. The acceleration of erosion and increased instability of the hill slopes is due to human activities, combined with indiscriminate building construction and disposal of debris.
In fact, in 2003, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) had constituted an expert committee to identify the parameters to determine the environmental sensitivity of hill stations. According to its report, Nainital, Mussoorie, Matheran and Mount Abu should be declared as eco-sensitive zones. While Math-eran and Mount Abu have received the status of an eco-sensitive zone, Nainital and Mussoorie haven't. The conservator of forests, Nainital, also sent a report to the principal chief conservator of forests, Uttarakhand in March 2007. However, no action has been taken by the state government till now. The situation has improved drastically in hill stations that have been declared to be eco-sensitive zones. In Nainital's case, the state government seems unwilling to clear the MOEFCC's proposal allegedly under pressure from local politicians.
Now people are demanding that illegal constructions in the town be banned with immediate effect and the Supreme Court orders of 1993 and the municipally bylaws be implemented strictly. The future of the town looks bleak unless illegal and environmentally harmful constructions are banned and court orders are implemented.