Uttarakhand: Public Outcry & Social Media Campaign Save Over 1,000 Cedar Trees In Jageshwar Dham

Uttarakhand: Public Outcry & Social Media Campaign Save Over 1,000 Cedar Trees In Jageshwar Dham

The trees were earmarked for removal to facilitate road widening and tourism development efforts, igniting widespread protests from locals who regard them as sacred symbols.

BISWAJEET BANERJEEUpdated: Wednesday, March 06, 2024, 06:48 PM IST
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In an inspiring display of community resilience and environmental activism, a public outcry and social media campaign have effectively halted the planned felling of over 1000 cedar trees in the sacred precincts of Jageshwar Dham, Uttarakhand.

The trees were earmarked for removal to facilitate road widening and tourism development efforts, igniting widespread protests from locals who regard them as sacred symbols.

As part of the state government's 'Manas Khand Mandir Mala Mission' aimed at improving connectivity to the temple area, the road expansion project encountered staunch opposition from villagers deeply attached to the spiritual significance of the cedar trees.

Spanning a three-kilometer stretch from Artola to Jageshwar, the proposed road widening initiative necessitated the removal of a substantial number of cedar trees. However, the decision to fell these trees was met vehement resistance from the community.

Fresh survey

Responding to the public outcry and mounting pressure, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami intervened, mandating a reassessment of the project and ordering a fresh survey.

“The state government is alive to the environmental and cultural concerns voiced by the local populace,” Dhami said in a statement.

Dhruv Singh Martolia, divisional forest officer of Almora, confirmed that a joint survey conducted by the Forest Department and the Public Works Department (PWD) assessed the road widening requirements. He affirmed the government's commitment to exploring alternative solutions to mitigate environmental impact.

The opposition to the road widening project has sparked dialogues with authorities and prompted a broader discourse on the delicate balance between development and environmental preservation.

People’s campaign

The #SaveJageshwar campaign was started on social media to protest the road widening project, is gaining momentum. Leaders of Jageshwar Dham, along with local clergy and residents, have united in vocal opposition to the felling of 1000 cedar trees for the roadway’s expansion.

Bhuwan Pathak, an activist with an NGO the Uttarakhand Sadbhavna Samiti, emphasised the community's dedication to environmental conservation, citing historical campaigns aimed at safeguarding trees. "This collective effort demonstrates the unwavering resolve of the people to protect their natural and cultural heritage for generations to come," Pathak expressed.

Pathak stressed, "The controversy underscores the importance of respecting local beliefs and sentiments in the planning and execution of developmental projects, especially in areas where environmental and cultural heritage intertwine."

The outcome of this dispute will undoubtedly resonate across the region, serving as a reminder of the imperative to prioritize environmental conservation and cultural preservation in the pursuit of development.

Revered tree

The local protests against the proposed tree felling, driven by the belief that these trees are deities, reflect a community’s struggle to protect its sacred grove amidst the push for modernisation.

Known as Daruk Van, the cedar trees are revered as manifestations of divine entities such as Shiva-Parvati, Ganesha, and the Pandavas, rendering their removal a deeply sensitive issue for locals.

Jageshwar Dham, revered as the eighth of the 12 jyotirlingas in India, holds profound historical and religious significance. The ancient cluster of shrines, dating back to the 7th to 14th centuries, stands as a testament to India's rich cultural heritage.

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