Explained: The amendment proposed by the government of Maharashtra for the protection of “heritage trees”

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao, edited by Explained Desk | Bombay |

Updated: Jun 12, 2021 9:41:11 AM

The government of Maharashtra will make changes the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Tree Protection and Preservation Act 1975, to introduce provisions for the protection of “heritage trees”. The Maharashtra Cabinet has also given the green light for the formation of the Maharashtra Tree Authority within the local civic bodies and councils which will make all decisions regarding tree protection.

What are heritage trees?

Under the proposed amendment, a tree estimated to be 50 years of age or older is to be defined as a heritage tree. It may belong to specific species, which will be notified from time to time. Experts believe that in addition to age, the state’s climate change department (which will implement the tree law) should also take into account a tree’s rarity, botanical, historical significance. , religious, mythological and cultural to define a heritage tree. The local tree office must ensure that the tree census will be carried out every five years as well as the count of heritage trees.

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How is the age of the tree determined?

The most common method of determining the age of the tree is dendrochronology – or dating of tree rings, also known as growth rings. Each year about one tree is added to its circumference, the new growth is called a tree ring. By counting the rings of a tree, the age can be determined. However, the process is invasive. To analyze the rings, carrots are extracted using a drill bit that is screwed into the tree and pulled out, bringing with it a sample of wood the size of a straw. The hole in the tree is then sealed to prevent disease.

The Department of the Environment, in consultation with the Department of Forests, will issue guidelines for determining the age of the tree.

Why was the concept of heritage tree introduced?

A heritage tree will benefit from special protection. Importantly, the age of the tree will determine the number of trees to be planted as part of the compensatory planting – that is, anyone who cuts down a heirloom tree will have to plant trees in the same number as the tree. age of the cut tree.

According to the state’s current compensatory planting, one sapling must be planted for each tree cut. In Mumbai, according to the Tree Authority established in 1976, to help regulate tree felling and provide for the planting of a sufficient number of new trees through the Garden Department, the compensation ratios are 1: 3.

According to the amendment, the number of trees planted will be equal to the age of the heirloom tree that is cut. For example, if a 52-year-old tree is to be felled, the felling party will need to plant 52 trees as compensation, with each compensatory tree being at least 6 to 8 feet in height at the time of planting. The organization that will plant the compensation trees will also have to ensure the survival of the plantation for seven years and geolocate the trees. These plantations can be carried out either on the same plot, or on a common pleasure plot.

By introducing a heritage tree, the state environment wants to discourage the cutting of heritage trees.

What is the economic value of the tree?

In the event that compensatory planting is not possible, the feller must pay compensation for the economic evaluation of the felled trees. Although the state government has not defined the economic value of the tree, experts say the amount of oxygen a tree releases into the environment should determine its economic value.

The Supreme Court in March of this year addressed the issue of the value of trees, beyond the cost of lumber / timber. In a case concerning the felling of trees up to 150 years old for road bridge construction and road widening projects in West Bengal, the SC ordered the establishment of a seven-member expert committee to “prescribe a mechanism for evaluating intrinsic and instrumental factors. value of trees… ”. To calculate “fair and equitable compensation … for cutting down trees … it is … imperative to make a realistic assessment of the economic value of a tree, which may be allowed to be felled, regarding its environmental value and its longevity, on factors such as oxygen production and carbon sequestration, soil conservation, flora / fauna protection, its role in habitat and ecosystem integrity and all another ecologically relevant factor, distinct from timber / timber, ”the court said.

The amendment also provides for a fine for illegal logging of trees of up to Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh per tree.

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Formation of the Tree Authority

The changes also make room for the formation of the Maharashtra State Tree Authority as well as the tree authority in local civic bodies and councils. The Tree Authority is responsible for “increasing tree cover in urban areas and protecting existing ones.” The experts will be part of the local forestry authority. Their knowledge and expertise will serve as the basis for decisions taken by the authority.

A proposal to fell more than 200 trees 5 years of age or older will be submitted to the National Tree Authority. The local TA should ensure that the project is not subdivided into smaller parts to keep the number of trees below the defined threshold. Ensure the preparation of a tree plan and should aspire over the years to have 33 percent green belt in their area.

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