In the sweltering heat and pollution of the big metropolitan cities of India, sometimes happiness seems a lost cause, amongst all the noise and chaos. In all this commotion if one gets to spend, a minute or two under the lovely shade of a tree on the roadside… the relief felt, cannot be put into words. The temperature under the tree on an average is about 10 -15 degrees below the actual temperature on a hot sunny day. It acts like a “natural air-conditioner”.
Whenever you see a tree on the roadside being hacked, don’t just stand there and watch it happen. According to a recent study done by the Times of India, most of these are “illegal felling”, either done by private contractors or hutment dwellers.
Under the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, every act of chopping, even if it is the same tree at different times, constitutes a separate offence . The penalty is a fine of Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 and imprisonment stretching from a week to a year.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
- Even if the tree is in private premises, it cannot be hacked without permission of the tree officer. Even government bodies require permission from the Tree Authority
- On receiving an application to cut a tree, a tree officer has to inspect the site and submit a report to the Tree Authority within 30 days. The officer has to give adequate public notice in local newspapers and affix a notice to a conspicuous part of the tree
- The Tree Authority has 60 days from the time the application is made to make a decision. If the 60-day period passes with no decision taken, the permission applied for is deemed to have been given. After permission is given, a tree cannot be chopped for 15 days
WHAT A CITIZEN CAN DO
- When you see a notice for felling, you can write to the Tree Authority and the police asking for the reason
- If you catch a person felling a tree, ask for the required legal papers. If the person cannot produce the documents, you can complain to both the municipal authority and the police
- If the documents show that the municipal authority failed to decide, a citizen can demand an explanation from the civic body under RTI. Till an explanation is forthcoming, the tree cannot be felled
If you see such an act taking place in your locality make it a point to report it to the Municipality or police. It might be a little troublesome and might need you to take some time out of your busy schedules, but you need to realize that the absence of the same tree on a hot sunny day might deprive you of that happy cool moment in the shade. Think about it….