Environment
Though no new trees have been planted till date, the Forest Department, which oversees afforestation has shifted the blame.
Image for representation; By Mokkie via Wikimedia Commons

The Hyderabad High Court has pulled up officials for failing to replant trees cut two years ago for the road widening of the Ibrahimpatnam-Nagarjunasagar national highway. The officials have been directed to submit reports on the status of afforestation efforts undertaken by the government.

The High Court took the matter into consideration based on a PIL filed by high court advocate T Rajnikanth Reddy, who was visiting his native village when he noticed trees being felled at Rangareddy Gudem village.

The Hyderabad High Court has pulled up officials for failing to replant trees cut two years ago for the road widening of the Ibrahimpatnam-Nagarjunasagar national highway. The officials have been directed to submit reports on the status of afforestation efforts undertaken by the government.

The High Court took the matter into consideration based on a PIL filed by high court advocate T Rajnikanth Reddy, who was visiting his native village when he noticed trees being felled at Rangareddy Gudem village.

“Upon asking the people who were cutting the trees I realised the contractor did not have permission to cut the trees. Some of those trees were over 100 years old, most of them were neem trees,” said the lawyer. “They could have transplanted the tree elsewhere without killing them but that option was even explored," he added.

To cut a tree one has to obtain permission from a competent authority, in this case, the Forest Department. When the tree is felled, two should be planted in its place and the maintenance cost has to be borne by those who cut the tree, under the Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act (WALTA).

The Telangana government through a Government Order No 19 dated 13/5/2016 simplified the permission process for tree felling, as part of their efforts to booth the states ease of doing business rankings.

Rajnikanth argued that the permission sought to cut the trees from the competent authority does not come under the purview of the Telangana governments simplified GO but under the WALTA act of 2002.

The lawyer pointed out that the government order was meant for industries and not for government departments. For government departments, section 29 (1) of the WALTA act applies. most of the trees that were cut were neem trees.

The High Court has now asked the Roads and Buildings Department who were widening the road and the Forest Department to submit a report on Monday. The court is seeking details on the status of afforestation and details about permissions given.

But no new trees have been planted till date. The Forest Department, which oversees the status of afforestation has been shifting the blame to the Roads and Buildings Department.

“The trees were cut by the contractors who were hired by the R&B division and not by us, so its the contractor who has to replant the trees. We were told the replanting of trees has not happened as the work is not yet complete,” said Shantaram, District Forest Officer, Nalgonda.

The forest department will now ensure that five trees will be planted for every one tree that was cut. The official, though did not give an exact figure of how many trees have been cut, told TNM that 602 more trees have been identified for felling.”The court has ordered us to take the afforestation work seriously and not just as a beautification exercise,” he added.

“Upon asking the people who were cutting the trees I realised the contractor did not have permission to cut the trees. Some of those trees were over 100 years old, most of them were neem trees,” said the lawyer. “They could have transplanted the tree elsewhere without killing them but that option was even explored," he added.

To cut a tree one has to obtain permission from a competent authority, in this case, the Forest Department. When the tree is felled, two should be planted in its place and the maintenance cost has to be borne by those who cut the tree, under the Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act (WALTA).

The Telangana government through a Government Order No 19 dated 13/5/2016 simplified the permission process for tree felling, as part of their efforts to booth the states ease of doing business rankings.

Rajnikanth argued that the permission sought to cut the trees from the competent authority does not come under the purview of the Telangana governments simplified GO but under the WALTA act of 2002.

The lawyer pointed out that the government order was meant for industries and not for government departments. For government departments, section 29 (1) of the WALTA act applies. most of the trees that were cut were neem trees.

The High Court has now asked the Roads and Buildings Department who were widening the road and the Forest Department to submit a report on Monday. The court is seeking details on the status of afforestation and details about permissions given.

But no new trees have been planted till date. The Forest Department, which oversees the status of afforestation has been shifting the blame to the Roads and Buildings Department.

“The trees were cut by the contractors who were hired by the R&B division and not by us, so its the contractor who has to replant the trees. We were told the replanting of trees has not happened as the work is not yet complete,” said Shantaram, District Forest Officer, Nalgonda.

The forest department will now ensure that five trees will be planted for every one tree that was cut. The official, though did not give an exact figure of how many trees have been cut, told TNM that 602 more trees have been identified for felling.”The court has ordered us to take the afforestation work seriously and not just as a beautification exercise,” he added.