Forest department observes Martyrs Day, remembers 14 ‘tree-protector’ officials
VIJAYAWADA: The Forest department on Tuesday observed Martyrs Day to remember the 14 forest officials who lost their lives fighting to protect trees, and to commemorate Rajasthan’s 363 Bishnoi community members who were killed for protesting against tree-felling in 1730. Interim District Forest Officer (DFO) of Krishna district, Ramachandar Rao, responded to a question asked by TNIE by agreeing for the need to follow the Water, Land and Trees Act (WALTA), which mandates planting double the number of trees cut for private or government construction.
“It is important that industrialists follow the WALTA Act as many construction projects are being taken up in the nascent state of Andhra Pradesh. A few corporate people are being responsible and consulting us regarding translocation of trees before undertaking construction projects.
However, more number of trees need to be planted and we must also water them and take good care of them to ensure their survival and growth,” he said. Another source from the Forest Department told TNIE that no one was following the WALTA Act because there weren’t enough officials in the department to ensure that people adhere to the act.
Rao also admitted that there was a staff-crunch. “Yes, it is difficult to implement the act as there aren’t enough personnel to go to the site and check if the trees have been planted,” he said. When the department met to commemorate the martyrs, he named the 14 officials who had died in line of duty and extolled their sacrifice. V Aasheervadam, M Venkataramana, L Raja Rao, SK Khader, M Krishnaiah, C Ramaiah, Abdul Gaffoor, D Ramachandra Reddy, SK Sahim Basha, C Sreenivasulu, NR Sreedhar, N David Karunakar, Didla Lazer, and Shaik Bajee Shaheed were the officials martyred.
He further narrated how the Bishnoi community members, who worshipped trees, protested against their felling when soldiers sent by a king who wanted wood to get his fort renovated, slaughtered them in cold blood.