BENGALURU: The latest amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act adds 22 new species to the existing list of 25 species which can be felled without permission. If the amendment Bill is passed, it may rob cities like Bengaluru of its green cover, environmentalists say.
Defending the move, Forest Minister Ramanath Rai told The New Indian Express, "These are tree species that have no commercial value. It is not as if the forest department is going to fell these species, but this amendment will help rural people, who have protected our environment facing so many restrictions — be it formation of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or reserve forests."
The minister said Karnataka has increased its forest cover as the Forest Survey of India report clearly mentions that the state is in second place. Evading a reply on the effect of the amendment on the tree cover in cities like Bengaluru and Mysuru, he said, "If we go on placing restrictions on people through laws, it will adversely affect their activities. Anyhow, the species on which restrictions will be removed are small and insignificant."
With Siddaramaiah government hoping to push many a delayed infrastructural projects that have been stuck in public hearings and agitations (eg: steel flyover project), it is trying to bring in a major amendment by adding 22 more tree species to the existing list of 25 trees that can be felled sans any permission. Environmentalists and green crusaders say the government is bowing to pressures of infrastructure development and various lobbies in an election year.
Introducing a major amendment to Section 8 of the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act recently, the government has added species like Acacia auriculiformis, Rain tree, all bamboo species except Bambusa arundinacea, Ochlandra, all Cassias except the Golden Rain Tree, Christmas tree, orange, Mayflower, Jacaranda, Sausage tree, Indian Cork tree, Drumstick, Mulberry, Curry leaf tree, Peltoform, Purple Bauhinia, Plumeria, False Ashoka, Paradise tree, African tulip, Tabebuia and Tecoma.
If this is passed, tree species like Bauhinia, Copper Pod, Rain Tree, African tulip and Tabebuia will come under the felling list. Experts say with the city already reeling under water scarcity, this will sound the death knell for the city's fragile ecology.
The earlier list, when the Act was amended in 2015, included 25 species — Casuarina, coconut, Erythrina, eucalyptus, Glyrecidia, Hopea Wightina, Prosipis, rubber, Sesbania, Silver Oak Subabul trees, arecanut, coffee, guava, Hebbevu (melia dubia), Ailanthus excelsa (Tree of Heaven), lemon, Maeopsis eminii, mango, sapota, Seemegala (Dendracalamus stocksii), Burma Bamboo (Bambusa burmanica), Yellow Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea), Acacia mangium, Acacia Hybrid, Acrocarpus fraxnifolius (Belanji) and cashew. However, two species — mango and Belanji — were struck off the list by the High Court on a petition filed by Cauvery Sene, Kodagu.
According to Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group (ESG) this will be a "terrible amendment" if passed. Most of these tree species constitute the greenery of Bengaluru. Many infrastructure projects have been stuck due to public hearings, mass protests and public agitations, so the government has taken this route, he said.
Urban conservationist and Tree Committee member Vijay Nishant adds that the list covers the entire tree cover of both Bengaluru and Mysuru where many infrastructure projects have to be implemented by felling lakhs of trees. He says, "The government is claiming the amendment to the Act is for helping farmers but it is to benefit various lobbies.
"On one hand, they talk about Bengaluru's water problem while on the other hand, more and more species are being added to the felling list year after year. We will launch a state-wide agitation if this amendment is passed as already enough damage has been done to the green cover of Karnataka."
City’s Green Cover on Felling List
Indian Cork tree
Copper Pod tree
False Ashoka tree
Indian Sausage tree
Plumeria (Pink blooms)
Tecoma (Yellow bells tree)