Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

Congress MLA Suresh Kumar Routray attacked Odisha government and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik over felling of trees near Bhubaneswar’s Dhauligiri proposed for the beautification of Shanti Stupa or peace pagoda, at a press meet on Tuesday.

During the presser, the Congress MLA alleged that over 3000 trees were felled as a part of beautifying the heritage site. 

Expressing his anguish, Routray said, “Were the trees in the vicinity of Shanti Stupa planted by you? Did Naveen Patnaik plant those? We had planted those trees. I along with former CM Harekrushna Mahatab and Radhanath Rath had planted those trees. How did you cut those down?”

“The trees felled didn’t even come within the beautification area. Was it done for showing off or for an extension? The government should be ashamed of it,” he added.

Further, he went on to add, “They (government) have installed a lift at an expense of Rs55 lakh so that Naveen Patnaik will be able to go up the Shanti Stupa as he cannot climb the staircase owing to his health condition. The lift should be left as it is for handicapped and elderly people.”

He also threatened to stage protests if the lift is removed from the place. 

Meanwhile, BJP’s district president Babu Singh said, “When I inquired an official about cutting of trees, he denied and said that they have adopted tree pruning procedure. Normally, the procedure is done before the rainy season, but they have done it after the rainy season ended. They are cheating the citizens of Odisha. Dhauli holds historic importance, however, forgetting those, they are cutting down the trees as per their wish. We will definitely raise our voice against the felling of trees.”

On the other hand, Odisha Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Minister Ashok Chandra Panda said, “The allegations of cutting down over 3000 trees are baseless. Only around 30-40 trees have been trimmed and not uprooted.”