The Noida Authority’s decision to cut around 3,000 trees from a 75-acre forest area in Sector 91 to convert it into a biodiversity park has drawn ire from the locals and environmentalists. According to a report in The Indian Express, the authority has decided that chop the eucalyptus trees and plant about 5,000 native trees and around one lakh other shrubs and plants, including over 19,000 ornamental ones.
The report said that about six months ago, the Noida Authority began work to redevelop the forest. The work to build the city’s largest biodiversity park was handed over to Uttar Pradesh forest corporation.
When locals and environmental groups learned about the decision, they claimed that besides eucalyptus, other tree species are also being cut down, thereby damaging the biodiversity and the habitat of birds and animals.
However, the Noida Authority said that 99% of trees in the forest are eucalyptus and more than 31 years old. ACEO, Noida Authority, RK Mishra, argued that all the felling is being done with the cooperation of the UP Forest Corporation.
“They (eucalyptus trees) have reached the end of their lives. There is a danger of these falling and hurting people. Plus, eucalyptus hardly has any use other than for commercial purposes,” Mishra said.
He informed that in the new biodiversity park, 5,000 long-life trees like neem, jamun, tamarind, mahua, mango will be planted.
According to authority officials, the idea to convert the forest into a biodiversity park was proposed in 2005, but the authority board approved the same in March 2016, the report added. They said that authority will plant 95,000 shrubs and develop facilities like a jogging track, multi-purpose hall, food courts, amphitheatres, playground, water bodies and parking.
Locals and civil society members questioned the need to construct food courts, amphitheatres and parking. They said that if the authority is planning to convert the forest into a biodiversity part, the eucalyptus trees can be replaced in a phased manner.
According to the IE report, the forest area in Sector 91 was notified as ‘city forest’ under the 2021 Noida Master Plan. But, in the draft 2031 Master Plan, the land has been modified to ‘park and playground’.
Meanwhile, locals have written a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Chief Secretary, Forest department, MoEF, and the CMD and CEO of Noida Authority, urging them to recall the decision.
At present, Noida has 27% of its area reserved as green against 33% mandated by the Forest department in every city.