Saturday, May 22, 2010

Proposal to amend Tree Preservation Act put on hold

Proposal to amend Tree Preservation Act put on hold

Special Correspondent
The amendment allows felling of certain varieties of trees without Forest Department permission

Various groups stage protest against the proposed amendment

BANGALORE: The State Government has put on hold the proposal to amend the Karnataka Tree Preservation Act – 1976 to provide for felling of certain varieties of trees without taking permission from the Forest Department.

Announcing this at a press conference in Bangalore on Friday, Western Ghats Bio-diversity Task Force Chairman Ananth Hegde Ashisara said the next course of action in this regard would be decided after consulting environment experts. The task force would organise such a consultation in about 15 days.

He explained that as per the provision of the above Act, land owners had to take permission from the forest department to fell trees even on their own land. Only a few common tree varieties had been kept out of this norm.

But farmers had been demanding that such relaxation should be extended to some more varieties of trees. Following this, the Forest Department had constituted a committee to look into the issue. This committee had recommended that such relaxation could be provided to several tree varieties including mango, jackfruit, cotton and banyan. After this, the Forest Department had forwarded a proposal to the government to amend the Act.

However, some environmental activists had taken exception to this while expressing fear that such relaxation of norms may lead to large-scale felling of trees. Following this, Mr. Ashisara had met the Principal Secretary to the Forest and Environment Department and convinced the official about the need to put such a proposal on hold, he said.

Protest

People from different civil society groups staged a demonstration against the proposed amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976 in front of Aranya Bhavan here on Friday.

Members of Environment Support Group (ESG), Hasiru Usiru, Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City (CIVIC), who were among the demonstrators, assembled at the venue holding hand-drawn posters with slogans such as, "Axe the amendment, not the trees", "protect bio diversity", and other pro-environment slogans. A memorandum taking serious objection to the exemption given to 30 species of trees in the proposed amendment to the Act was submitted to the Forest department officials.

Leo Saldanha, ESG Coordinator, claimed that the majority of trees in the city belonged to the species in the proposed amendment. He said that if the amendment was passed it would make it easy for any one to fell trees without any regulations from the forest department. Kathyayini Chamaraj, executive trustee of CIVIC, said, “The proposed amendment is a war against trees." She said that no "true Bangalorean" would tolerate the loss of their trees.

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