Contrasting claims by officials over felling of trees at Polem

The felling of trees for road-widening work at Polem has sparked off yet another controversy, amid contrasting claims by officials of the highways and forest department.

While officials claim that the project consists of road-widening work, locals allege that work is afoot to erect a toll booth plaza for levying entry tax to vehicles from across the border.

Residents also stated that trees were razed to the ground and transported to undisclosed locations, but an engineer of the highway roadwork stated that the land belonged to the highway department and that, they had the right to cut the trees.

When asked to comment on the felling of full-grown trees, RFO (territorial) Narayan Desai of Canacona feigned ignorance and said he would send his subordinates for a site inspection.

But Desai disputed the highway engineer’s claims and insisted that permission should be obtained from the forest department to cut any tree above 1 metre from ground level and having a girth of 15 cms.

Highways Executive Engineer U Kulkarni explained that the work was undertaken under maintenance and was tendered at a cost of about Rs 5 lakh.[H]