The State government, on a direction by the Karnataka High Court in April this year, has constituted an expert committee for Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts to consider applications seeking permission to fell trees, including for the metro rail and other infrastructure projects.
According to a Government Order, issued on August 1, 2019, I.B. Srivastava, a retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, is the chairperson of the committee. Muthukumar, a pathologist in the Institute of Wood Science and Technology, and Ganesan R. of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, an NGO, are the other members. The GO was submitted to the court on Thursday.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz directed the committee to draw up its own procedure to consider the applications and submit the procedure, along with details of the infrastructure required to carry out its tasks, to the court by September 13.
The court said that the city’s tree officer will have to submit all the applications to the committee for consideration.
On April 22, the court had directed the State to constitute the committee comprising experts from the field of environment, science, and technology to examine whether trees proposed to be felled could be saved. After exhausting all alternatives if it is found that it is impossible to save the trees, only then shall permissible be given to cut the trees. The committee is expected to give its considered opinion to save the trees, the court had said.
Recently, the court had pulled up the government for arguing that constitution of the committee may not be necessary as the Tree Authority and the Tree Officer, constituted under the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976, are performing their duties diligently. The court pointed out that the Tree Authority had failed to perform its statutory duties as a tree census, as mandated by law, has not been conducted from the past 43 years and only a few meetings were held by the authority.