K.S. Sudhi

Draft proposals awaiting Cabinet clearance

Strict penal provisions to be incorporated

KOCHI: Unauthorised cutting of trees in public land will soon be treated as an offence.

The draft of the Kerala (restriction on cutting and destruction of trees on the lands at the disposal of the government) Rules 2009 is awaiting Cabinet clearance.

The draft proposes to set up tree authorities in all civic bodies with civic representatives, environmentalists and forest officials as its members. For cutting trees, applications, accompanied by a location map and a site, the species, girth and number of the trees to be cut and the reasons for cutting the trees will have to be submitted to the authority.

“The draft proposes to act as a deterrent to cutting down trees than making it a punishable offence,” said T.M. Manoharan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest. Strict penal provisions would be incorporated to the rules subsequently, he said.

Within 15 days of the receipt of the application for cutting a tree, an officer has to submit a report to the authority. The authority will dispose of the application within a month of receiving it, the draft says.

For every application cleared, the applicant has to plant at least five trees on the same site or other suitable places within 30 days of cutting down the tree. The Forest and Wildlife Department will be the appellate authority for the tree authority. Any person who violates the provisions shall be punishable under relevant sections of the Kerala Forest Act. The authority can also take suo moto action for protecting trees. It will also take the lead in preparing a master plan for regeneration and preservation of trees within its jurisdiction. The implementation of a master plan shall be the duty of the local self-government institutions and the officers in charge of the land, the draft says.

If an officer in charge of the government land fails to comply with an order of the authority, it will take steps to recover the expenditure incurred for implementing the order from the officer concerned.