State wide protest on Friday, 21 May 2010, 4-5 pm
In front of District Forest Offices in Kolar, Mysore, Belgaum, Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga and in front of Headquarters of Karnataka Forest Department, Aranya Bhavan (Next to Sankey Lake), 188th Cross, Malleshwaram, Bangalore 560003
In the International Year of Biodiversity, it is a shocking development that the Karnataka State Forest Department has formulated a proposal to amend the Karnataka Tree Preservation Act that would allow expansion of the list of trees that are exempted from the purview of the Act. At present only 11 trees are exempted from the purview of the Act and thus do not require prior permission of the Tree Officer for felling. The Forest Department now proposes to expand this list to 41 tree species.
Unbelievably the proposed expansion list includes Aala (Ficus benghalensis, National Tree of India), Arali (Ficus religiosa, Sacred tree), Goni(Ficus mysorensis), Atthi (Ficus racemosa, Queen of Trees) and three types of basari. All these Ficus species are home to millions of birds and small mammals which feast on the figs but also act as insect controlling agents. Removal of ficus will devastate bird life and thus aid spread of pests. The exemption list also includes major fruit trees such as Mango, Jack, Sapota, Lime, Tamarind, etc. and Neem, Honge (Pongamia pinnata), Dalbergia Sissoo amongst others which are part of the ecological and cultural landscape of this region. Not surprisingly, Shivni (Gmelina arborea), an excellent timber tree known as white teak is also listed for exemption.
There is growing concern across the State that urbanisation, mining, infrastructure development and degradation of land are causing widespread loss of vegetation. At a time when the State is reeling under the hottest summer ever recorded, one expects the Government to take steps to restrain tree felling, increase protection to trees and aggressively promote tree planting drives. The proposed amendment instead makes it easy to fell trees. It must be noted that the trees proposed to be exempted from the protection of the Tree Act include some of the most valuable species that support livelihoods of thousands of families that depend on their produce. These are also the very trees that abound our cities on roads, parks, gardens and open spaces. The proposed amendment will be a free license to civic authorities, infrastructure developers, timber contractors, miners, etc. to clear-fell these trees on one excuse or the other. The result would surely be devastating to our local and regional environments.
Opposing this proposed amendments, environmental and social action groups, local communities and concerned people across Karnataka have come together to organise a joint protest on 21 May 2010, Friday, between 4-5 pm, in front of all Forest Department Headquarters in all districts. As a part of this protest a Memorandum will be handed over to the Department to stop this amendment and demand the meaningful implementation of the Tree Act in consultation with local governments, local communities, environmental and social action groups amongst others. The protest is organised on the eve of the International Day of Biodiversity to draw the attention of the people of Karnataka to the regressive and anti-environmental policies that Karnataka Government is promoting.
In Bangalore, Environment Support Group and Hasiru Usiru (a voluntary network of progressive individuals and organisations) are organising the protest in front of the Headquarters of Karnataka Forest Department, Aranya Bhavan (Next to Sankey Lake), Malleshwaram, between 4-5 pm on 21 May 2010, Friday. Thereafter, a memorandum will be submitted to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
We will be grateful if your mediahouse can cover this important protest and help secure the biodiversity of Karnataka.
Thank you for your cooperation and support.
Leo F. Saldanha and Bhargavi S. Rao
Environment Support Group [Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives]