Karnataka: Greens battle amendment to Tree Act

Bengaluru: Right now it is on social media and soon the protests against the proposed amendment in Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act (KPTA) of 1976 may spill out to the streets if it gets passed in the current assembly session. Heritage activist Priya Chetty Rajagopal started an online petition on Wednesday, which has gone viral with close to 3,000 signatures. She termed that the move will waver the trust in the government. “Why is development anti-heritage? Trees are natural heritage and we are fighting it as a part of heritage beku,” Rajagopal said.

The citizens’ upsurge against the steel flyover forced the government to shelve the project as it could have led to cutting of over 800 trees. The eco-activists point out that the city is witnessing hotter summers due to a drastic reduction in the green cover.

“Thanks to the army that has many of its establishments within  the city, Bengaluru still has a green cover. It is suicidal to cut trees and if the government thinks that trees are standing in the way of development, they must tell so that it can be debated? said Ammu Joseph, author.  

According to KPTA Act 2014, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagare Palike (BBMP) is not obliged to call for a public consultation if the numbers of trees which will be axed is less than 50.

Asked if legal recourse could be taken if the bill is passed in the assembly, Ms Rajgopal said the possibility can’t be ruled. “It is an attack on our soul. The government has seen us fighting for every single tree,” she added. 

The activists allege the government has conceded to pressure from timber mafia but are trying to camouflaging with the farmer excuse saying they would need permission to axe trees for cultivation. Tree doctor Vijay Nishanth said nobody wants such an amendment and a letter to Congress President Rahul Gandhi will be written in this regard.

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