Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My hands are tied, BCC chief tells eco-activists

My hands are tied, BCC chief tells eco-activists
The Times of India

Bangalore: BCC commissioner Jothiramalingam on Tuesday said an inspection of trees slotted for felling could be undertaken by an outside faction, like an independent task force, if necessary. “I am not empowered to let NGOs have a say in the matter’’ he said.

He was speaking to protesting NGOs after representatives of eco-groups like Environment Support Group, Alternative Law Forum and Greenpeace stepped up their protest en masse by shouting slogans and demanding a stop to tree felling with immediate effect.

Says Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, “The trees marked for felling do not pose any threat to traffic. The forest department is the actual owner of all trees. For the BCC to chop any tree, they have to take the tree officer’s permission, which has not been done. According to section 323 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, the commissioner has powers to fell trees that are likely to fall and endanger any person.’’

These eco-warriors including Suresh Heblikar, rallied up in large numbers at the Corporation office. Adivasi children led by John Devaraj even staged a play narrating the destruction largescale tree felling could wreak on the environment.

“We keep vigil even at night to see that no tree is touched. Despite that, a tree was cut at 2 am on Monday night’’ said an environmentalist.

“The Forest department had given permission three months ago to fell dead trees which could endanger human life and property. Why hasn’t that been taken up’’ asked yet another.

Later, commissioner Jothiramalingam had a closed-door meeting with representatives of various groups.
He then told this paper, “The request to fell 702 trees came from the traffic department. We have so far removed 54 trees and will be pruning 162 trees. After some NGOs requested for a re-examination of certain trees, I have said that trees on Richmond Road are not to be touched till seen thoroughly by horticulture officers.’’


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