After much delay and warnings issued by the Karnataka High Court, the Chief Conservator of Forest, Bengaluru Territorial Circle informed the court that it has directed the Tree officer and deputy conservator of Forest (BBMP) to carry out and implement the tree census in Bengaluru City by October 10 and complete it within one year by September, 30, 2020.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S R Krishna Kumar were told that Institute of wood science and technology has been appointed to carry out the census. Funds have already been earmarked by the corporation. The bench has issued notice to the institute and made it a party in the petition. The court posted the matter for further hearing and filling of compliance affidavits on November 13.
In the last hearing the court had warned of taking appropriate action against the Tree authority/officers, if it does not commence tree census in Bengaluru by October 10.
The court is hearing a petition filled by D T Devare. The bench has given four weeks time to the expert committee, headed by an IAS officer, to submit it's proposed procedure. The role of the committee is to examine whether trees which are proposed to be felled could be saved by adopting any method. Only after exhausting all methods if it is found that it is impossible to save a tree only then it shall be permissible to cut the trees.
Advocate Pradeep Nayak appearing for the petitioner said the court has directed the authorities to initiate the census in one month and complete it in a year. The court has earlier directed the Tree Authority, constituted under the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976 and Tree Rules, to commence a tree census in the city of Bengaluru. The census will be done for the first time, in 43 years.
Devare in his petition 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.