January 30, 2007

No real attempt to save trees

[ 17 Mar, 2003 2310hrs IST TIMES NEWS NETWORK ]
(situation isn't better four years later, actually worse!)
AHMEDABAD/VADODARA/SURAT: According to a scientific study, a tree with a life span of about 50 years generates Rs 3,75,000 worth of oxygen per year. It recycles Rs 4,50,000 worth of water and provides Rs 3,75,000 worth of soil erosion control and soil fertility.

It also provides Rs 7,50,000 worth of air pollution control and provides Rs 3,75,000 worth of shelter and home for animals and birds. Going by these figures, it is difficult to estimate the losses suffered by the environment in Gujarat on every Holi.

Approximately 30,000 Holi fires are lit across the state. And considering that 100 kg of wood go up in flames in each bonfire, the final figure touches a mindboggling 30,00,000 kg of wood and, in the process, taking toll of over 7,500 trees.

"These figures do not include the value of the fruit, timber and beauty the tree provides in its lifetime," says Gopal Jain of the Centre for Environment Education. However, the forest department officials argue that most of the trees used in the religious fire is 'desi bawal'. "The wood mainly comes from the farm forests," informs chief conservator of forest, Balaguru Swami.

According to N Nagori, former president of the Gujarat Timber Merchants' Association, a large chunk of the wood is brought from the Kheda district. It's mainly cut from the roadside.

Says Himanshu Nagori, president of the Ahmedabad Timber Merchants' Association, "The wood used during Holi is mostly useless." Haribhai Panchal of Sadvichar Parivar, an organisation which has been working hard to spread awareness on the issue, believes it's high time something has be done to save the environment.

"Thousands of tonnes of wood are burnt on Holi. Instead of having numerous Holis, we should have one symbolic fire. Can you imagine around four lakh kg of wood is burnt in Ahmedabad alone?" he says. Panchal recollects one instance when jail inmates had taken the Parivar's advice seriously and had a Holi fire using waste products instead of wood.

In Vadodara, if the authorities are to be believed, bonfires will consume as much as 2 lakh kg of wood.

"A housing society that has more than 100 houses would require almost 200 kg of firewood, whereas those with a lesser number of houses will utilise anywhere between 50 and 100 kg of firewood, on this day. The wood commonly used comprise neem, tamarind, gulmohar and banyan," says general secretary of International Society of Naturalist (Insona), GM Oza.

"According to a recent estimate, almost 100 to 200 kg of firewood is burnt by small as well as medium-sized societies in the city," says deputy conservator of forests, social forestry division IA Chauhan.

In Surat, at more than 300 places holika dahan will be organised and on average in each case, one to two quintals of wood would be burnt, according to chief fire officer G M Kotwal of the Surat Municipal Corporation.

Deputy forest conservator D B Patti told TNN that though vigil has been stepped up on the occasion to prevent ferrying of timbers from the forest region to the city areas, in almost all the cases, only fuel-wood, collected from fields or purchased from wood sellers, is used for the purpose.

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