Monsoon Session: Maharashtra Govt Presents New Bill To Make Mass-Cutting Of Trees Easier

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday, July 25, initiated a bill in the parliament will make the razing of trees in the city easier. As per this bill the authority of cutting down of over 200 trees which are more than five years of age or ‘heritage’ ones will be given to the local civic body.

State-level Tree Authority has so far had this degree of power. With launch of this bill, the administration is proposing an amendment in the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of tree Act, 1975.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who is also the urban development minister, proposed the bill, which cites urbanisation and the government’s easy-doing-business policy as justifications for the revision. As per the urban development department officials, this will be a solution to the unbridled felling of trees. Although the amendment is intended to facilitate infrastructure projects, but, giving governing bodies like municipal corporations more power would undermine efforts to safeguard trees, an official stated. “Local committees are frequently more vulnerable to pressure from powerful interests,” he added.

The bill also states that it is mandatory for the plots with trees to be cut should not be subdivided into smaller parts just to keep the number below 200. The method to be followed for cutting trees was the same whether it was before the local authority or the state authority, according to S S Shinde, a former head of the Tree Authority of Mumbai. “Most proposals for cutting more than 200 trees are by the government, and that too for infrastructure projects like road construction,” he asserted.

According to data provided by the civic council, of the 113 trees that fell, 50 were from the western suburbs, 32 were from the eastern suburbs, and 31 were from the city area.

“In addition to the rain, we also recorded gusts that were strong to very heavy and blew at a speed of 50 kmph. Some trees were unable to endure the pressure because their roots could not hold the soil. Tree branches and leaves get heavier during rain because they soak up water, an official from the tree department said.

In the last week of June 2023, 26 incidents of tree fall were reported. Such incidents lead to several deaths every year. It is pertinent to note that the BMC has received around 400 complaints of tree-falling.

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