The under-construction grade separator between MA Road and Radio Kashmir junction, which has lead to axing of 11 Chinars, has drawn the ire of environmentalists and nature lovers who accused the authorities of failing to explore alternatives to save the heritage trees.
Even as both JK Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA), which is constructing the grade separator and the district administration officials have been repeatedly saying that various options were explored to save 11 Chinars during the construction of the proposed grade separator, sources said they didn't adhere to recommendations of consulting agency.
"Options such as constructing this lower limb from the rear side of the masjid was outrightly rejected while the other option to shift the masjid didn't find any takers. The administration was not in favour of relocating any structure. Since this project involves a huge cost what was the problem in acquiring land so that Chinars could have been saved," sources said.
Prominent businessman and nature lover Abdul Hamid Bhat, who has been spearheading a campaign against axing of these Chinars said part of the grade separator between Radio Kashmir junction to MA Road is being constructed without considering the adverse impact the elevated flyover will have on the scenic view of the TRC ground.
"One understands that the grade separator from Nawai Subah to De Linz hotel will ease the traffic movement towards Residency Road but this lower limb which has affected the Chinars could have been better planned," Bhat said.
According to sources, the main objective behind constructing the lower limb of grade separator is to ensure smooth flow of VIP traffic coming from civil secretariat.
"What was otherwise the need to make this lower limb at the cost of environmental destruction. They just want the flow of VIP traffic to move hasslefree," sources said.
Director ERA, Satish Razdan said constructing the lower limb of the grade separator from the rear side of the masjid would have lead to bringing down of several structures and also adversely affected the TRC ground.
"We tried to explore all options but none was suitable. ERA is paying for plantation of multiple number of Chinar trees against each Chinar axed," Razdan said.
Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone said there was no other alternative but to axe the Chinars for the grade separator. "We had told ERA to suggest technical alternatives but even after they explored options there was no other way but to cut the trees. We are also conscious of the heritage Chinars but felling of trees is in larger public interest," the DC said.
Pertinently, ERA which is constructing the grade-separator has lead to axing of 11 Chinars for which the job has been entrusted to Forest Department. The chopping down of Chinars had started in January but was stopped after a massive public outcry. However, the axing of Chinars was resumed recently which resulted in people from different walks of life holding protests. Infact, several NGOs have now decided to start signature campaigns and even file PIL against axing of Chinars.