The Karnataka High Court has directed the Tree Authority, constituted under the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976 and Tree Rules, to in two weeks time commence a tree census in the city of Bengaluru. The census will be done for the first time, in 43 years.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz said: "The census has not been carried out for the last 43 years under the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976 and Tree Rules, even though the law clearly mandated the same." It was informed that BBMP were in talks with the Institute of Wood Science and Technology to conduct tree census and Rs 2 crore has been earmarked for this purpose in its budget, for year 2019-20. However, the bench noted that authorities had not clearly stated when the census would be commenced and completed.
The bench also restrained the tree officer of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) from allowing felling of more than 50 trees for public projects without holding inquiry as per provisions of the Act.
The direction was given during the hearing of petition filed by one D T Devare. In his petition filed through advocate Pradeep Nayak, relies on a study which shows that the green cover of Bengaluru has been reduced by a drastic 78%, evidencing beyond doubt that the very object of the Tree Act is being defeated. It has also been studied that while on an average, there must be eight trees per person to offset human respiratory carbon and have adequate oxygen, presently in Bengaluru, there is just one tree for every seven persons – i.e. less than 1.8% of the optimum number of trees.
The petition states the derogation of the Tree Act and Rules by the respondents--State Government, Karnataka forest Department, Bangalore Urban District Tree Authority, and the deleterious impact of such derogation on tree cover on the city of Bengaluru is causing greater pollution and rising temperatures in the city, deteriorating the quality of life of its residents and also eroding the environment and Air of the city. These effects are a clear violation of the fundamental right to life of the citizens of Bengaluru.
The petition has also sought to hold as unconstitutional the amended section 8(3) (vii), of the Trees Act. The section provides for a minimum number of trees to be felled in order for there to be a requirement for the issuance of a public notice, at an arbitrary figure of 50 trees.