Proposed Highway endangers Uttar Pradesh mango belt

Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh), Sep 27, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): One of the prime mango belts of the country is fighting a battle for survival in the Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh as the central government plans to build a highway bypass through the orchards.

[ReviewAZON display=”searchquery” query=”mango” count=”5″ category=”GourmetFood” page=”1″ sort=”default”]According to the orchard owners, the proposed highway bypass through Khurja town would lead to cutting of over 5,000 fully-grown, fruit-bearing mango trees – some as old as 70-80 years.

The axe is likely to fall on over 12 mega mango orchards that are falling along the alignment selected by the ministry of road transport and highways for the proposed bypass on National Highway-91 that links Ghaziabad to Kanpur.

‘This mango belt has the choicest varieties of north India. The stretch has thick and high-producing mango orchards. This alignment would lead to complete destruction of the entire grove area,’ Brigadier (reetd) Israr Rahim Khan, a resident of Khurja and owner of one of the orchards said.

The ministry intends to construct a 60-metre-wide highway bypass around Khurja on the National Highway-91, the gazette notification of which had been published by it June 16.

The 12 mango orchards which may be destroyed due to the project are spread across Talibpur and Lalpur Chitaula villages of Khurja town in Bulanshahr district, some 70 km from Delhi.

The ministry has already decided to acquire the orchards’ land in these villages, according to local residents.

The stretch is said to have a rich variety of dushehri, langda, chausa, ratol, fajri and malka (Malika) mangoes. Malka is a cross-breed of dushehri and neelam species, found mostly around Chennai.

‘As per the Forest Conservation Act 1972, a tree with a girth of circumference more than four inches cannot be cut. But, the mango trees standing here have a girth of 36 to 72 inches that should be considered. The ministry says it would easily obtain permission from the forests ministry to cut these mango trees,’ Brigadier Khan, a Kirti Chakra winner said.

‘Each orchard employs around 200 men whose livelihood would be lost. Cutting of such rich mango orchards would be virtually an emotional trauma to the farmers,’ Khan said.

‘If the proposed highway is built as per the current alignment, all these trees would be rendered useless due to heavy pollution from the passing vehicles. Their fruit bearing capacity would be brought to zero,’ he said.

‘A mango sapling takes 20-30 years to mature and bear fruit. We have been caring and nursing them for the last 30 years. Our generations have been into it. Within days, these trees would be cut. We can’t imagine such a situation,’ said Abdul Khalique, a gardener at one of the mango orchards in Talibpur.

As per the records available for 2008, Bulandshahr accounted for 160,000 metric tonnes of mango yield in the state. The total production in the state stood at 3,400,000 metric tonnes.

When asked about the bypass issue, District Magistrate, Bulandshahr, Shashi Bhushan Lal Sushil, said: ‘The additional district magistrate has been made the nodal officer. If complaints are received in this matter, they would certainly be examined.’

D.P. Majhi, manager (PR), National Highways Authority of India, said: ‘Such matters in which complaints are received, are worked out by our technical division. They shall consider the viability of an alternative alignment if farmers oppose (the existing plan). The representations of the farmers would be looked into, accordingly.’

Sanjay Bandopadhyay, joint secretary (land acquisition and coordination), ministry of road transport and highways, said: ‘The farmers can file objections before the land acquisition officer appointed in the district. All modifications and amendments would be considered by him. The orchard owners should convince the additional district magistrate.’

‘The farmers should adopt the legal approach and then convey to the NHAI with proper evidence and facts related to their objections,’ he said.

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