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New set of rules on felling trees

Concerned over increasing legal hazards over felling trees, the state government is framing a new set of rules, giving specific directions on the matter.

The new rules, according to environment officials, will lay down clear guidelines on which trees can be felled, which cannot be touched and which trees can be felled after obtaining prior permission.

“The existing rules are not clear. The confusion has led to all kinds of trouble, including legal wrangles. We want to frame specific guidelines, so nobody needs to move court or raise a hue and cry,’’ environment secretary Hirak Ghosh said on Thursday.

The major provisions of the new rules in Calcutta are:

2No tree on either side of a major road can be felled

2Trees on dividers or boulevards of any road can be felled for the purpose of widening the road

2Trees that are either obstructing a building or damaging it, can be felled

2Trees that have grown on someone’s residential plot can be felled. This means a land- owner can plant and fell trees on his own, without requiring to take anyone’s permission

The rules are the same in the case of any commercial, industrial or institutional plot. In other urban areas and elsewhere in the districts, prior permission will be required to fell any tree on any land marked as ‘bagan’ (garden) in the land records. Trees in any other areas can be felled.

According to existing rules framed by the environment department, no tree can be felled without prior permission from the Pollution Control Board in case of Calcutta and from the district forest officer in case of the districts.

“The rules on felling are based on high court judgments. The Green Bench has given different verdicts in different cases and there is no general order from the high court on felling. We are going through all the judgments,’’ Ghosh said.

According to senior officials, it has been a major problem for the government to solve disputes over trees. Many projects are either stalled or delayed due to litigations against felling of trees. Even a land-owner has to face the wrath of the civic body and the local people while undertaking construction on his own plot.

“Due to the restrictions, many people, despite having vast lands, are reluctant to plant trees, fearing that he will not be allowed further construction. If we do not alter the rules, new plantations will not come up,’’ the secretary said. “We need to plant trees both for environment and commercial purposes. If we relax the rules, many people will benefit,’’ he said.

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