Forest Department clarifies in response to an RTI application filed by an environmentalist
- File Photos: P.V. Sivakumar & Satish .H
Paigah Palace surrounded by green cover before being converted into US Consulate. (Right) US Ambassador to India David
HYDERABAD: Though the US Embassy had denied it at that time, an RTI applicant has now learnt the truth that it was indeed at the Mission's request that the many old trees were felled inside and outside the Paigah Palace, when it was leased out for a US Consulate here in 2007.
Environmentalists protested when several trees, at least one of them over a century-old, were cut down on security grounds.
There was an euphoria then of getting the US Consulate to Hyderabad.
The dominating view at that time was that after all Hyderabad got the Consulate amid stiff competition from Bangalore, and that should take precedence over concerns on alterations to a protected heritage building or loss of trees.
Media reports about tree-felling were denied and the US Embassy passed on the buck to city civic corporation.
Referring to a report on chopping of trees in the Outlook magazine, the then US Ambassador called it “inflammatory”.
“It contains multiple factual inaccuracies, because your reporters never contacted us or offered us a fair opportunity to reply to your allegations. The United States fully accepts responsibility for the stewardship of leased historic properties. We have agreed to protect and maintain the Paigah Palace —and to return it in five years in its restored condition. Our lease agreement also specifies that we will return the palace grounds adorned with twice the number of plants and trees present when we began our tenancy. Moreover, the cutting of trees outside the palace walls, it was done by the city corporation - not for or at the request of the consulate. I want to reassure readers that the US Mission respects India 's local customs and traditions,” he said.
To get to the truth, an RTI activist Rakesh Kumar Dubbudu filed an application with the Forest Department, which confirmed that the felling was done upon the express request of the US Consulate.
The reply he received recently said:
“The United States Consulate has given representation for felling of trees in Paigah Palace to the Deputy Collector and Tahsildar, Balanagar Mandal, Ranga Reddy district. The Deputy Collector and Tahsildar, Balanagar mandal, Ranga Reddy district, has requested this office (Forest) for according permission for felling of trees in Paigah Palace vide ref No B/14040/2007, dated 7.1.2008”
Based on the representation given by the US Consulate, the department granted permission to cut a total of 62 trees that included Gulmohar, Tamarind, Neem, Milling tone, Royal Palm, Ashoka, he was informed.
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