The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Felling ban rein on builders
- Project plan nod linked with plantation pledge

A perfect building plan will no longer be enough to get a construction proposal cleared.

If the project comes up after felling trees, the promoter or development agency will also have to submit a plantation plan ' detailing the number of trees to be planted to make up for the loss of green cover.

That, and a ban on chopping of trees anywhere in the state, form the crux of a piece of legislation ' The West Bengal Trees (Protection and Conservation In Non-Forest Areas) Bill, 2006 ' that forest minister Jogesh Burman will table in the Assembly on February 16.

A building plan sanctioned by any authority will not be valid unless the plantation plan is approved. The bill stipulates that plantation will have to be undertaken before construction begins.

Following enactment, the government will form an authority that will decide on allowing the felling of trees and sanctioning building plans.

The decision to bring in a bill follows chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's order to the development agencies to compensate for the loss of green in various projects.

Bhattacharjee had expressed his displeasure to cabinet colleagues Asok Bhattacharya, Subhas Chakraborty, Goutam Deb and Manab Mukherjee, over indiscriminate felling to facilitate development projects, including housing estates.

Sources said the chief minister was annoyed over rampant violation of environment norms by the government and development agencies like the Calcutta Improvement Trust and the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority.

Apart from felling, the bill covers cutting, trimming, girdling, uprooting and damaging a tree.

Any tree or plant 4.5 ft high and with a diameter of over 10 cm comes under the ban.

A salient feature is that if any individual or agency fells trees for a valid reason, a similar number of trees will have to be planted in the vicinity.

To ensure compliance, a developer will have to submit a fee along with the building and plantation plans. The amount will be refunded if the developer plants as many trees as he has destroyed.

If any developer/promoter expresses inability for undertaking the plantation drive, the authorities will get the work done against the fee.

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