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Issue 7
November , 2007
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Tree Authority has its first meeting

Source: Toxics Link, Date: November , 2007

The first meeting of the Tree Authority was held 5th October at the office of the Secretary (Environment), Government of Delhi.There are three individuals who are members of this authority who represents civil society. These are Mr. Ravi Agarwal, Mrs. Usha Srinivasan, Prof. C.R. Babu. All three were present during the meeting.

Following are the minutes of the meeting: "It is clear from the meeting that the Tree Authority have been formed under section 7 of DPTA, 1994, the Three Authority is responsible for:

a) The preservation of all trees within its jurisdiction

b) Carrying out census of the existing trees and obtaining, whenever considered necessary, declarations from all owners or occupants about the number of trees in their lands.

c) Development and maintenance of nurseries, supply of sees, saplings and trees to persons, who are required to plant new trees or to replace trees which have been felled.

d) Getting planting and transplanting of trees necessitated by construction of buildings, new roads or widening of existing roads or replacement of trees which have failed to come up along roads or for safeguarding danger of life and property.

e) Organisation of demonstrations and extension services for the purposes of this Act and assisting private and public institution is connected with planting and preservation of trees.

f) Undertaking such schemes or measures as may be directed from time to time by the Government for achieving the objects of this Act.

g) Undertaking critical study of the proposals of various government departments and private bodies for construction of buildings, roads factories, irrigation works, laying out of electric, telephone, telegraph and other transmission lines with regard to protection of existing trees and planting of more trees, wherever possible.

The agenda items of the meeting were as below:

1. Preservation of all trees within its jurisdiction

2. Review of progress of plantation made by the Greening Agencies during 2007 08

3. Creation of 9 new City Forests

4. Review of the status of disposal of applications seeking permission for felling/ transplanting/ lopping of trees under DPTA.

5. Undertaking such schemes or measures as may be directed from time to time by the Government for achieving the objects of this Act.

6. Any other item with permission of the Chair.

It is clear from the meeting that the function of the authority is only to review not to grant permission for tree cutting but for various other functions regarding trees and greening of the city.

In brief some of the important issues included issuing guidance to the engineering and horticulture Wings of various agencies to ensure that there is no tiling around the trees. This is also as per the directions of the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi (the case filed by Kalpavriksh). Guidance to be prepared, the kind of trees be planted, include in new colonies, provisions of nursery with the right species, monitoring of new city forest, training of malis to ensure proper pruning and not the 'butchering' which now happens, and restarting the tree help line etc.

Regarding the issue of tree cutting permission, no data was provided on how many trees have been cut or will be cut in the near future.

However, it was stated that total of 549 applications for tree cutting have been received of which 372 have been cleared. Data on the number of trees under each application is not provided. It is also decided that tree cutting permission should be given after careful consideration including prevention those precious, which are rare or very old. Once permission is given all trees will be marked and a notice board will be put up clearly stating serial numbers which would be cut. This is to ensure transparency and public monitoring so that the wrong trees are not cut by contractors.

The next meeting is proposed to be held in six months time.

It is clear that if tree cutting is to be prevented, it has to be done outside tree authority which only has mandate, to manage and monitor the situation but not prima-facie to grant permission itself. This function lies with the designated Tree Officers of each zone who are the respective Zonal Forest Officers.

It will continue to need a public campaign for cutting of trees to be minimised since it is uncertain what possibly a tree officer has to stop the clearance in any meaningful way.