At a time when the government is being criticised for not having a Green approach, as expected from a Left government, noted environmentalist Sridhar Radhakrishnan has quit the Tree Monitoring Committee under the Social Forestry Department. Sridhar is a nominated member as the NGO representative on the committee since 2010.
The reason Sridhar cites for quitting is that the committee is powerless – it has no provisions to take punitive actions. “The committee doesn’t do any follow-ups, no adequate funds have been allotted for it and it has not been able to deliver justice,” Sridhar says in his resignation letter. He tendered his resignation to the Principal Secretary of the Forest and Wildlife Department on December 4.
Sridhar is Project Director of the NGO Thanal, based in Thiruvananthapuram. “Any tree planting, protection or participatory monitoring can be effective only if such a committee and a regulatory system is constituted through a Tree Protection and Regulation Act, which will enable greening the state. However, the Social Forestry Department is doing it with absolutely no vision, planning, transparency, follow-up or accountability,” the letter reads.
The Tree Monitoring Committee was formed in 2010, after there was massive tree cutting in Thiruvananthapuram. The then Minister for Forest, Binoy Viswam, had issued an order to form the committee. The committee since then had been instrumental in preventing irrational cutting of trees since it was empowered with the authority to say no. For cutting any tree that is in a public place, an application has to be placed before the committee.
“The tree cutting had no rationale, the Public Works Department would first a cut a tree, whether it was necessary or not, and then plan the construction of a road. But we vehemently opposed it. Now there is no follow-up once an application is considered and rejected, and there are no adequate funds. Also, recently there was a government order empowering the local-self-government to cut trees that were growing precariously in public places. The collector can take a decision on it. Even so, some collectors go for it thoughtlessly while a few act sensibly,” Sridhar tells TNM.
The environmentalist advocates bringing in an Act before the next monsoon for the protection of trees. “The Act should be for the planting and managing of trees,” he says.
“The committee was quite effective in protecting thousands of trees that may have been unnecessarily cut. But now it’s weak in its functioning, despites being one of its kind in the time of climate change and we need serious environmental action,” his resignation letter says.
Thanal has been actively involved in creating awareness on effective waste management and is associated with many green initiatives like the Green Army of students. Sridhar, along with his colleagues, have been vocal and prompt to point out environmental hazards, if any, in any new initiatives or projects.