Activists petition Forest Minister over tree felling cases in Mysuru

Seek setting up of a committee to inquire into the persons responsible for felling trees in Yadavagiri and Vijayanagar first stage

A group of citizens, who are the members of Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP), has urged Forest Minister Umesh Katti to institute a high-powered committee to inquire into the persons responsible for the irresponsible act of felling 20 trees here. The committee should also look into the action that can be taken against the guilty and institutional changes that can be brought to prevent such acts in the future in the State, it suggested.

In a letter to the Minister, they urged the Minister to ask the Forest Department officials to immediately act on their complaint over the two recent incidents of tree felling here.

They said on the night of December 13, three fully grown trees in front of a hospital in Yadavagiri were felled. “When some of us complained to the forest officer, he was unfriendly. He told us that he could act only if we could give details about who did it. Further, he asked us to complain in writing. We were surprised why he could not take action suo motu,” they said.

To highlight the problem of tree felling and dereliction on the part of the Forest Department, Mysureans organised“last rites” (the way it is done on the death of near and dear ones) for the tree on the thirteenth day – on December 26. Priests performed the usual rites chanting mantras. People offered flowers and prayed for the dead trees. The solemn function attracted the attention of Mysureans.

“As we were reflecting on what to do next to preserve trees, we came to know 20 trees were felled in another part of Mysuru – Vijayanagar first stage. While no permission was given for tree felling in Yadavagiri, there was official permission in the case of Vijayanagar,” said Bhamy V. Shenoy and other members in the letter.

The MUDA/PWD had initially asked for the felling of 57 trees and finally only when it was reduced to 20, permission was given by the Forest Department here. “We learnt that former DCF Prashanth had not given permission even after the number of trees was reduced to 20. When the previous DCF had refused permission, what was the new development to change the earlier decision,” they asked.

When 20 activists met ACF, Rangaswamy (the DCF was away), the officer said he visited the site and was convinced that there is a need for widening the road. His observation was based on a few minutes of observing the traffic on the stretch of the road. “When we asked whether a survey was done to assess traffic density, the response was ‘no’. How can the Forest Department give permission without any serious analysis especially when the previous DCF had refused permission?” they question.

Asked why there was no public hearing, the ACF’s response was that it would be held only when 50 trees or more are involved. Since there was no Tree Authority in Mysuru, he could not seek its permission. Why did he not wait for the constitution of the Tree Authority and then follow the procedure as per the Tree Act, the activists asked.

The petition is signed by Maj-Gen (retired) Sudhir Vombatkere, S. Shobana (retired principal of Teachers’ Training College), Nanjapur Yaduraju (retired agricultural scientist), Usha Subramanium (retired scientist, Ministry of Environment), Venkatesh Kharidi (entrepreneur) and Bhamy V. Shenoy (international energy expert).

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