In another significant win for citizen activism in Bengaluru, the Karnataka government on Thursday scrapped the controversial amendment to the Karnataka Tree Preservation Act 1976. The U-turn came as the government had come under immense public pressure ahead of the assembly polls.
The amendment proposed by Law Minister TB Jayachandra was to make it easy for government agencies to chop off 50 species of trees without public consultation.
These included coconut, gulmohar, eucalyptus, silver oak, sausage tree, subabul, sapota, Indian cork tree, copper pod to name a few.
Some activists alleged that this proposed amendment was to make it easy for the government to go ahead with the controversial 6.7 km steel flyover project. The project itself was put in cold storage after considerable opposition during the legally mandatory public consultation exercise.
Citizen groups had opposed the flyover a a stretch where the flyover was supposed to be built had these species of trees in abundance.
Soon after the amendment was introduced, there were Tweetathons to MLAs, online petitions, gatherings and even consultation with political parties including the ruling Congress' high command to oppose the move.
But why would the government table such an amendment?
Lawyer-activist Vinay Sreenivasa claims that although the amendment is â€śshockingâ€ť, it exposes the â€śdonâ€™t careâ€ť attitude of the government in power.
â€śThe move by the government to introduce this amendment was shocking. Twice earlier we have protested similar amendments and it was withdrawn. This only shows that there are elements within the government which are brazen about their approachâ€” they wanted to push this in and make it easier to fell trees, even though they knew this would be opposed,â€ť he said.
â€śIt also means that the government as a whole is either not in touch with reality or they don't care about public opinion,â€ť he added.
It was earlier reported, how successive governments, had tried to dilute rules and laws governing trees in the past and the same was opposed every time in many forums including courts.
Vijay Nishanth, environmentalist, popularly known as the tree doctor, said, â€śThis was just an election gimmick to please the timber mafia. They obviously knew that this would be opposed. First of all what is the logic or need of this kind of project at a time when the green cover and ground water level is decreasing at an alarming level. There was no scientific backing to the proposed amendment.â€ť