Governments have diluted law to protect trees
By Suryash Kumar
Owing to the extension of Namma Metro’s Purple Line and the construction of the Yellow Line, BMRCL has cut around 9,000 trees so far.
Bangalore Environment Trust chairman A.N. Yellappa Reddyinformed The Observerthe Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act was enacted in 1976 to preserve trees, but subsequent governments have diluted the Act.
“Bengaluru’s forest areas have been diverted for development, and environment is getting affected. What kind of development is it? The courtsare being misled in environmental cases. Are human beings the only ones who have rights over the resources…,” he said.
In 2018, the Bangalore Environment Trust filed a writ petition before the Karnataka High Court highlighting the government’s failure to implement the Preservation of Trees Act. The petition argued that the government had diluted its rules.
Following the petition, the High Court recently asked the government to submit a report on the health of saplings planted by BMRCL as part of its afforestation project.
Earlier, a public notice was required if any public project required the felling of trees; but through an amendment, the government has made a notice necessary only if 50 trees are cut.
Vijay Ranjan Singh, Additional Principal Chief Conservator, Karnataka forest department, said: “Ask the public whether they want traffic or trees. The Metro will ensure that Bengaluru has fast traffic. Regarding environmental concerns, the government plants double the number of trees if any trees are cut for a project.”
Saplings planted are looked after for three-four years and sometimes 10 years, depending on the funds allotted, Singh shared.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests approves different divisions to monitor the saplings through field officers.
T.L. Ravi Prakash, senior public relations manager, BMRCL, said: “For every tree cut due to the construction of Metro, ten trees are planted by BMRCL. Some trees are translocated near lakes, parks and other areas. Until now, almost a lakh trees have been planted by BMRCL.”
The saplings are monitored by BMRCL officials through its contractors. BMRCL also coordinates with BBMP’s forest department to maintain the health of the saplings planted.
”We translocate the trees at nearby places as the court has granted us the permission to do so,” the BMRCL official said.
Gagan Kecharia, Manager, Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment,an independent council that evaluates a building on environmental aspects, said: “Architects are trying hard to ensure that no trees get cut while designing the project. But if trees are cut, then for each tree being cut, three trees are planted. Planting more trees and balancing them with development is the way forward.”
He explained: “If 20 out of 100 trees get cut, we ensure that the project developers plant 60 trees. The remaining 80 trees on the site are preserved and protected.We ensure that no trees are destroyed because of ongoing construction activity.”
Special permission is needed to translocate trees.“Therefore, translocating trees requires written consent from the technical committee council with substantial evidence,” he added.