After a delay of close to three years, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike is finally set to conduct a tree census in the city. While the tree census has been due since 2015, newly elected Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun announced that the tree census will take place from the start of the new month i.e. November by contractors under the supervision of civic bodies and Forest Department.
Speaking to TNM, Gangambike said, “From November 1, BBMP will start mapping trees in the city and its surroundings. In the 198 wards in the city, some areas don’t have trees at all, so we want to identify these areas and plant trees there. We have met Bengaluru District Commissioner and Forest Department officials yesterday to do this.”
The announcement comes on the back of the Karnataka High Court hearing a PIL asking the court to direct BBMP to carry out a comprehensive tree census within six months. The PIL asked for appointing a tree committee and an authority in the city, as proposed in the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976.
In April 2017, an RTI reply by the BBMP revealed that two committees which were responsible for monitoring the city’s tree cover, did not have any members for the past two years.
The petitioners of the PIL— Bangalore Environment Trust, told the court that the authorities do not want the census to be done in order to show lesser trees cut on paper while okaying infrastructural projects. In the past, numbers given by BBMP of tree felling due to infrastructural projects or widening existing roads, have been contested by independent citizen groups.
Bengaluru-based eco-conservationist Vijay Nishanth, popularly known as the Tree Doctor, is not impressed with the developments.
He said, “They (BBMP) keep on saying every year but they never do it, the Mayor changes and everything is forgotten. Everybody comes to Bengaluru knowing that the weather is so good and the air is clean but this will soon go. This was known as the Garden City but everyday the green cover in the city is going down. So without a census, nobody can have an idea how to grow it back or how many old trees are lost. Without knowing the number of trees and species, how can you start planting trees?”
He added, “Every year the BBMP claims that they have planted this many trees and spent so many crores of rupees, but there is no accountability. How many of the trees survived, we won’t be able to tell. The worst part is that the BBMP has only 12 forest officers working for the whole city. “
He also slammed the political class saying that there is a lot of empty rhetoric from every party, which talks about remembering Kempegowda but nothing is done on the ground.