Monday, May 24, 2010

CONSERVING TREES :: by Maj Gen S. G. Vombatkere (Retd)


According to media reports, the recent proposed amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees (KPT) Act, drafted by a Committee of forest department officials, has been put on hold following protests across the state by various environment groups and concerned individuals. The proposed amendment was signed by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Headquarters & Coordination).

When enacted in 1976, the KPT Act mandated that permission of the Forest Department was required for felling any tree of any species. By an amendment in 1977, two species of trees were exempted from the Act. In 1987, nine more species were added to the exemption list. In 1998, all species of trees within tea and rubber plantations were exempted. The recent amendment lengthens the list of species to 41. Thus there has been an increasingly permissive approach to the conservation of trees.

The initial cause for exempting certain species from the provisions of the Act could have been for the convenience of the officials of the Forest Department who would otherwise need to inspect every request for permission, even though it might have created certain opportunities when trees were felled due to ignorance of or contempt for the law. However, the recent exemptions appear to be motivated by something far more than mere convenience of officials.

Article 48A of the Constitution of India demands that “the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. Protection of the environment and forests is to be done by the officials of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the upper echelons of which are occupied by IFS officers who are appointed as “Conservators of Forests”, employed, as the designation implies, to conserve forests. Conservation, meaning preventing wasteful or harmful use, is merely one of the ways of protection, which means keeping safe from harm or injury.

Apart from the fact that increasing the list of exemptions would increase the number of trees that may be indiscriminately felled to many millions, It is deeply disturbing that people employed and paid from public funds to conserve trees have formed a committee to decimate the tree population of our state.

Article by:
Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)
President, Mysore Grahakara Parishat

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