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India has come a long way since independence; one could only imagine travelling from Mumbai to Bengaluru in 14-15 hours or even short distances like Mumbai to Pune will be possible in 3-4 hours by road. The country has progressed in terms of the infrastructure with faster and better connectivity between various towns across the nation.

I belong to Umargaon where I remember my childhood days spent playing with my friends in the open grounds or looking and plucking fruits of the trees by sticks etc., but now it is what it never was, although I still attach myself completely but feel sad that the fun of childhood for the next generation  has been lost. Trees are increasingly under attack for development.

It’s a small town along the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Blessed with excellent environment, lush green cover and a beautiful beach, was just a tiny village few years back. Thanks to GIDC and large number of micro businesses, this place is developing at the speed of a bullet train, but there was a bottleneck to this transformation i.e. the road infrastructure.

The main road connecting highway to the railways and town was much narrow. The entire stretch of 9 km required widening. As the number of vehicles has grown and the number of pedestrians in the evening hours increased, it added to the trouble. There were also huge trucks and containers for transportation of goods manufactured. It was essential to have the roads widened.

But, this would be possible only at the cost of cutting many trees on both sides of the road. These trees were very old, yet standing tall. Many favoured development and others felt the need to preserve these trees resulting in many debates which went on for almost two years. Ultimately, almost 70% of the trees were chopped off. Development was selected over nature.

Umargaon is just an example of many developing towns. Infrastructure is the prime ingredient for development. To implement ‘Make in India’ and to have more manufacturing units in smaller towns and villages, roads become crucial. Proper infrastructure will lead to ease of transportation, prosperity, better lifestyle and ultimately a step towards a developed India.

That’s one side of the story. Studies suggest that any nation should have at least 30% forest reserves. But, India presently has only 7% reserves. This has a direct impact on water cycle resulting in unseasonal rainfalls. We are still an agrarian nation. But, look at our efficiency in terms of agriculture. Trees are considered to maintain the water and air cycles in the environment.

Due to lack of trees, we have high levels of CO2 in air. Just chopping off trees for construction purposes has led to a severe threat. Remember the odd-even rule to be implemented in the capital to fight pollution. It is not just India’s problem, the world as a whole is facing this issue. As a result, the world leaders felt the need to address this issue and conducted the ‘Paris Meet’.

It’s a very complex situation. Development is undoubtedly required for the mankind to progress, but there should be a balancing act. But we are not serious about our environment. We all know that there’s no life without Oxygen and no Oxygen without trees. There has to be commitment to plant more trees in some other areas for the trees that are cut for creating roads and buildings.

Let’s be practical. If not every citizen, let every household plant a tree. We are already facing irregular rainfalls, drought, floods and other adversities. It’s high time we start planting trees. Encourage families, friends, housing societies, organisations and others to plant trees. It’s a collective effort that will lead to much faster development as well. Plant a tree, you will feel good!