The reason Bengaluru was often referred to as the ‘garden city’ was because of the vast green cover it once had. However over the years, by focusing more on the tag of “Silicon Valley of India”, it has alarmingly reduced its green cover, and the city has become a concrete jungle.
Old-time residents often feel they have paid a rather hefty price for this change. The landscape and climatic conditions of the city have drastically changed over the past twenty years, and the quality of life of the average Bengalurean seems to have deteriorated – especially from a health perspective.
A report by Research Matters suggests that the paved surfaces of Bengaluru have increased by a whopping 1005% – 100 times in the past 40 years! This has obviously come after the sacrifice of the city’s green cover, reducing from 68% in 1973 to merely 25% in 2012. The area of ponds and lakes reduced from 3.4% to just 1%. If this trend continues, Bengaluru would be left with merely 3% of its green cover in the next couple of years!
These are alarming statistics.
To add to the woes of the residents, the government earlier this month decided to include more tree species under the felling list of the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976 (Act). This new proposed amendment would allow the authorities to cut these trees without any public consultation, and without seeking permission from the appropriate body.
This is the second amendment post-2015. The 2015 amendment said that the permission of the Tree Officer is not required if less than 50 trees were to be felled for “public purposes”.
Environmentalists, eco groups, green activists and various citizen groups came out to voice their concern over this latest proposed amendment.
Some of the species that came under this proposed amendment include coconut, Gulmohar, eucalyptus, silver oak, sausage tree, subabul, sapota, Indian cork tree, copper pod, mast tree, paradise tree, African tulip, Raintree, gold rain tree, Christmas tree, mulberry, neem, tree of gold, pink tabebuia and pink poui.
Did you know that according to the Act, there are certain grounds by which a tree can be cut?
The Act says that permission to cut a tree cannot be refused if the tree is dead, diseased or wind-fallen; or constitutes a danger to life or property; or constitutes an obstruction to traffic; or is substantially damaged or destroyed by fire, lightning, rain or other natural causes.
If you happen to see a tree being cut, you can approach the people cutting the tree and see if they have permission to cut the tree. The permission should be from the Tree Officer, BBMP with the seal of the BBMP and the signature of the Tree Officer.
The Act also provides for compensatory planting at the discretion of the Tree Officer.
While the Act on paper is good, its implementation is where the lacunae lie. With citizen groups coming out strongly and drumming up public support, the government will have to think twice before passing such amendments.
As it is, Bengaluru has been named as one of the 12 high-risk cities globally that will face an acute water crisis, similar to the one Cape Town is facing now. Unless the government and the citizens decide to act now, it will be too late in the day.
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