The road is mostly 3.7 metres wide, but the project aims to widen it to 5.5 metres. Local people say that the road is already 5.5 metres wide at some places, but the trees along those stretches are also being cut down
The road from Kashiadanga in Rajshahi to Amnura in Chapainawabganj is a stretch of greenery that attracts visitors from far and wide to take a breath of fresh air and to soothe their eyes with the scenic beauty.
But more than two thousand trees, aged more than half a century, that made the 36 kilometre stretch of road a special place for people of the area, are being chopped down to widen the road.
So far, the trees along a seven kilometre stretch of the road have been cut down by workers of the Roads and Highways Department (RHD). The trees are mostly Karai, Babla and Mango.
The project has already caused a stir among local people because no certificate from the department of the environment has been obtained to cut the trees.
There is also an allegation that many trees are being chopped down unnecessarily.
The road is mostly 3.7 metres wide, but the project aims to widen it to 5.5 metres.
Local people say that the road is already 5.5 metres wide at some places, but the trees along those stretches are also being cut down.
In the Bindarampur area of the road, many trees outside the project's 5.5 metres parameter have also been felled.
"Look, that tree is standing far away from the road, but still they are cutting it down," said Mokhlesur Rahman, showing a Karai tree being sawed by workers of the Roads and Highway Department.
The trees are a part of the memories of many people who have grown up in the village.
"We have been living with the trees from our adolescent days. Many of them are more than half a century old. But they are cutting them down indiscriminately," said Abdur Rashid and Hasan Ali, two elders from the village in their sixties.
Environmental activists have expressed concern over the cutting of the trees.
"Earlier thousands of trees along the Rajshahi-Naogaon road were cut down in the name of widening the road. But we must try to keep the trees alive when improving a road. We urged the authorities to save the trees, but nobody listened," said Md Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the environmental organisation Save the Nature.
Md Samsuzzoha, the executive engineer of Rajshahi Roads and Highway Department, said some open spaces are needed to build a proper slope to make the road safe.
"We would keep the trees if possible, but we had no choice. We will plant trees here after the project is completed," he added.
Sources at the Rajshahi Roads and Highways Department say that the widening project of the 36 kilometre road will cost Tk92 crore. Three contractor organisations were appointed in March and in May this year to do the work.
The department sold the trees beside the road before the construction began.
But there is an allegation that the trees were sold at a price fixed by a survey done seven years ago.
"We sold 663 trees owned by the RHD in an open tender. The minimum price of the trees was Tk6 lakh 90 thousand. But for open tender the price rose to more than Tk22 lakh 35 thousand," said the Executive Horticulturist of Rajshahi Roads and Highways Department Dr Jahangir Firoz.
He added that the road has trees owned by the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority, the Forest Department, the District Council and the RHD.
Amzad Hossain, officer-in-charge of the Forest Department in Paba upazila said his department has 752 trees along the road. The trees have been sold for Tk7 lakh 61 thousand through open tender.
The Barind Multipurpose Development Authority has sold 790 trees for only Tk5 lakh 29 thousand.
The workers said they have been cutting trees for 33 days. So far, they have completed cutting the trees along seven to eight kilometres of the road.