A forest official in Karnataka's Kodagu district was suspended a week after the issue of over 800 trees being axed on private land came to light.
Deputy Conservator of Forest, Madikeri division, ML Manjunath, was suspended on Friday. Until a replacement for Manjunath is announced, Maria Christu Raju, DCF, Virajpet division will take up the additional responsibility of acting DCF in the division.
On June 5, over 800 trees were axed without the knowledge of the district administration on 80 acres of private land in Galibeedu in Kodagu.
The private land is owned by a businessman from Andhra Pradesh. No conversion or axing of trees is allowed in these lands without the permission of the Forest department. The land was also 'bane' land or forest land where only the growth of trees are allowed.
However, despite the rules, the district administration found that the businessman had colluded with Manjunath to obtain permission for axing the trees.
Kodagu Deputy Commissioner Annies Kanmani Joy confirmed that permission was not given for cutting the trees. "We ordered a revenue inspector to inspect the site and prepared a report after information about the tree cutting was published in media outlets. The axing of trees in Galibeedu area has now been stopped," the DC confirmed.
Two days after the issue came to light, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy also ordered a report to be prepared on the incident and confirmed that no trees would be axed without permission.
*ಕೊಡಗು ಜಿಲ್ಲೆ:ಮರ ಕಡಿಯುವುದನ್ನು ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಲು ಸೂಚನೆ*— CM of Karnataka (@CMofKarnataka) June 7, 2019
ಕೊಡಗು ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ 800 ಮರಗಳನ್ನು ಕಡಿಯುವ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಬಿತ್ತರವಾಗಿರುವ ವರದಿಯ ಹಿನ್ನೆಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮುಖ್ಯಮಂತ್ರಿ ಹೆಚ್.ಡಿ.ಕುಮಾರಸ್ವಾಮಿ ಅವರು ಇಂದೇ ಮರಗಳನ್ನು ಕಡಿಯುವುದನ್ನು ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಿ, ವರದಿಯನ್ನು ನೀಡುವಂತೆ ಮುಖ್ಯ ಅರಣ್ಯ ಸಂರಕ್ಷಣಾಧಿಕಾರಿಗಳಿಗೆ ಸೂಚಿಸಿದ್ದಾರೆ
Manjunath had come under fire in recent weeks after the farmers from the Karnataka Raita Sangha held a protest singling him out for releasing an elephant captured in Somwarpet taluk of the district at Nagarahole forest range in Mysuru. The protesting farmers were up in arms about the decision to allow the elephant to be released in areas close to where crops were being grown.
The news of the axing of trees comes amid a ban on conversion of land for commercial purposes in the hilly district. The ban has been in place since November 2018 and was imposed in the district following the floods and landslides last year. Since the start of 2019, the district administration has rejected over 700 applications to convert land for commercial purposes.
Only small landowners with up to 20 cents of land in non-vulnerable areas of the district have been allowed to convert land for building individual houses.