Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tataguni estate says ‘tata’ to several trees

Tataguni estate says ‘tata’ to several trees

Raghava M.
Forest officials probing illegal felling and transportation of Roerich estate trees
Preliminary investigation points to procedural irregularity in felling trees

Forest Department staff begin work on enumerating felled trees

— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

HACKED: The Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board stands accused of turning a blind eye to illegal felling and transportation of trees.
BANGALORE: The Forest Department is investigating unauthorised felling and transportation of trees from the Tataguni Estate of the late Svetoslav Roerich and Devika Rani.

Preliminary investigation points to procedural irregularity in felling and disposal of trees in the estate, which is on the Bangalore-Kanakapura Road, close to the Bannerghata National Park. This 468-acre estate is crucial for the department as the elephant corridor connecting the Bannerghatta National Park and the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary slices through it.

The department started the investigation following reports about the misuse of permission to cut 53 dead and fallen trees.

The Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board, which is overseeing the Tataguni Estate, stands accused of turning a blind eye to illegal felling and transportation of large silver oak and eucalyptus trees.

Some of the bursera trees, or Indian lavender, planted by the Roeriches, whose seeds supplied essential oils to the perfume industry, have been damaged. After Devika Rani was done with her acting career, she settled in the Tataguni estate along with her second husband, Russian artist Svetoslav Roerich. Following his death in 1993 and hers the next year, their secretary Mary Poonacha made claims over the estate on the basis of a will. This will is now in dispute and the case is now before the Supreme Court, which had ordered maintenance of status quo.

The estate
In 1996, the State Government established the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board to run the estate, which includes the couple’s house as well as studio.

On Monday, a team of forest personnel, led by Deputy Conservator of Forests (Bangalore Urban) N. Devaraj, visited the estate following reports of tree felling. During his inquiry Mr. Devaraj found that proper procedure for the disposal of wood had not been followed.

The felled trees did not bear numbers and no record had been maintained before issuing the permit to transport the wood on lorries.

Mr. Devaraj has instructed his personnel to begin work on enumerating the felled trees.

“In the next few days our staff will cover the entire area and find out the number of trees that have been cut down. We will check this with the number for which permission was granted and then calculate those felled illegally, he told The Hindu.

‘Yes, trees felled’
Conceding that trees were felled illegally, Mujeed Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board, said: “Four eucalyptus trees and one Eugenia jambolana (neerale) tree have been cut down illegally. I noticed it on Sunday,” he said, adding that he had filed a complaint with the Thalghattapura police on Monday.

Mr. Ahmed said the Board had sought clearance of the State Government to cut down 53 dead and fallen trees in August 2009.

“They were harming other trees. The contractor who was assigned the task has taken away only 39 trees. He is yet to cut 14 trees,” he said.

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