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Doon losing litchi :
Multi-storey apartment blocks have not only changed the skyline of Dehradun but have alsothreatened the fate of the city’s litchi.
Ever since it donned the mantle of a busy and bustling state capital, Dehradun has not only lost its aura of a quaint British cantonment which was a retiree’s haven, but is also on the brink of losing its aroma of litchi in summer months.
Going by the trend, the famous Dehra litchis may soon be history as a number of litchi orchards have been the chief casualty of the massive construction in the city.
The rose-scented variety has been the most well-known litchi of Dehradun followed by shahi and kalkateeya varieties. A number of litchi orchards that once dotted the entire Dalanwala locality are no more to be seen as apartment blocks have replaced the once-sprawling bungalows with litchi orchards.
According to sources in the horticulture department, almost 20 per cent of litchi trees in the heart of the city have vanished due to large-scale construction.
In the past eight years, private colonisers, in alleged connivance with politicians and the police, have felled hundreds of litchi trees. With little land availability in Dehradun for new construction, realtors had offered plum deals to Doonites owning litchi orchards.
The felling of hundreds of fruit trees at more than three places by promoters shortly after the formation of the state in 2000 to build residential colonies in litchi-orchard predominant areas like Dalanwala, had amply hinted that Dehradun’s litchi orchards were no more safe.
This incident had caused large-scale resentment among the residents of the city. The then Nityanand Swami Government had even ordered a probe into the act.
After much hue and cry, cases were registered and two persons were arrested for the alleged illegal felling of trees.
A resident of the city and an office-bearer of the Dalanwala Residents’ Welfare Society, Brig (retd) K.G. Behl terms this systematic felling of litchi orchards in Dehradun catastrophic. He calls for united efforts on part of the residents to protect litchi orchards.
Significantly in the year 2000 itself, hundreds of inhabitants of Adhoiwala village on the periphery of the city held a demonstration at the district headquarters against the felling of large number of litchi trees by a private coloniser.
The coloniser had claimed that he had priorpermit by the Forest and Horticulture Department to fell trees to build a residential colony, but the residents accused the coloniser of resorting to reckless felling.
They pointed out that felling of such a large number of fruit-bearing trees would adversely affect environment in that area. However, the Forest Department “acted” by confiscating the felled trees.
Similarly in the very same year, dozens of litchi, mango and other fruit trees were cut from a seven-bigha orchard in the Lakhibagh area allegedly under police protection.
The felling was carried out at night and the felled trees were transported before dawn.
The magisterial inquiry ordered by the Chief Minister in its preliminary report found that the private coloniser, who was hand in glove with a ruling party politician and the police, had taken permission from the Horticulture Department to cut a few trees but had, in fact, axed hundreds of trees.
Several of such incidents of felling of litchi trees have taken place over the years as the district administration has little power to protect these trees. These orchards, which have been the identity of this city, can only be safeguarded if stern legal measures are adopted.
Interestingly, while on the one hand, the Dehradun Horticulture Department admits that it can do little to check the dwindling number of litchi trees in the city, on the other it claims that due to its policies and programmes there has been a steady increase in the total area under litchi cultivation in villages on the outskirts of Dehradun.
“In order to promote the setting up of litchi orchards, we are providing assistance of Rs 22,500 per hectare to the farmers”, district horticulture officer Amar Singh said.
He, however, admitted that the department was “ill-equipped” to protect standing litchi trees in the city areas. Under tremendous pressure of development, constructions certainly come at the cost of these litchi trees.
Thus knowing that it can do little to stop the winds of change, the District Horticulture Department has been undertaking planting of litchi trees in Chandrotee area in Garhi`A0 and the Premnagar and Vikasnagar areas in West Dehradun.
The Horticulture Department has planted as many as 50,000 litchi trees in the last three years.
In 2007-08, Dehradun district had produced 5,592 metric tonnes of litchis and had 3,634 hectares of its area under litchi cultivation.