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Issue 5
, 2007
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Natural forest cover should not be replaced by gardens: JNU teachers

Source: Toxics Link, Date: , 2007

Members of the teaching community at Jawaharlal Nehru University have called for a detailed assessment of all construction activities to ascertain its impact on campus environment and find ways of minimising possible loss of green cover on the campus, which is based on the Delhi Ridge forest.

Faculty members have drawn Vice Chancellor B.B. Bhattacharya's attention, through an open letter, to the fact that the development of campus for addressing the demands of the academic community should be carried out only by integerating a long-term perspective of the environment.

Following is the text of the letter along with a list of the signatories:

Open Letter to JNU VC

Concern Over the Indiscriminate Removal of the Green Cover in JNU

We the undersigned would like to express our concern and dismay at the indiscriminate removal of the green cover in JNU campus. We do not have a problem with the development of the Campus to meet the ongoing needs of the academic community. However, this needs to be done with a minimum impact on the environment of the campus.

We need to view the University and its campus in the long term and as an integrated whole. For this reason, every plan of the University needs to be discussed by the academic community not only keeping the academic concerns in mind but also taking into account the likely impact on the environment of the campus.

The Environmental impact committee needs to look into the various proposals, consider alternatives and invite suggestions from the community. Its report should be placed for wider discussion by the community before finalization of the same.

Today what is visible on campus is not just removal of the green cover for construction of new buildings but also indiscriminate removal of the undergrowth and clearance of the green cover to be replaced by gardens and shrubs not natural to the local environment. Apart from the fact that the natural growth has its own beauty which cannot be matched by the man made gardens, the latter is very resource intensive. For instance, gardens need a lot of watering and care. While gardens are alright in the immediate vicinity of residences, hostels or other buildings, the natural forest cover should not be replaced by gardens as seems to be happening on campus.

There is a lot of wildlife associated with the undergrowth and that is increasingly under pressure as we remove the undergrowth. We have witnessed the campus turn green and full of life in the last 30 years. This reduced the level of dust on campus which has seen a quantum jump in the last few years. Due to the green cover, one also felt the temperature difference as one came into JNU. It was the long term vision of the pioneers of the University that allowed all this to happen and we have been proud of it. Are we witnessing a reversal of this vision? We wonder if the Universities do not take a long term and holistic view of the problems confronting it then who in society would do so.

Our suggestions would be:

1. The natural cover be disturbed as little as possible.

2. In open spaces, natural cover be strongly preferred to gardens and paving.

3. We should come up with innovative solutions and utilize the existing space more fully before thinking of constructing more.