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Maharashtra: Heritage tag for trees older than 50 years

The state Cabinet on Thursday cleared 13 amendments proposed to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975. The changes include granting trees older than 50 years a Heritage Status and making it mandatory for planting of saplings equivalent to the age of the tree(s) the person wants to chop down.

 “The amendments are to ensure sensitivity, conservation and the protection of the green cover in urban areas,” said Principal Secretary, Environment Department, Manisha Mhaiskar, adding that the three with a Heritage Status tag "will be entitled to greater protection”.

Compensatory Plantation changes

“According to the current Compensatory Plantation, you have to plant one sapling for each tree you chop down. But we are forgetting that the tree that was cut down was 100 years old, whereas the sapling being planted is just 100 days old. Hereon, whoever is cutting a tree will have to plant the number of saplings equivalent to the age of the felled tree.”

For example, if a developer cuts five trees, each 50 years old, then he has to plant a total of 250 saplings as compensation. In case s/he doesn’t have enough land to plant that many trees, it has been suggested that each Urban Local Body (ULC) should identify land for plantation.

Any tree that is planted as compensation should be at least 6-8 feet in height since this “ensures better survival and longer life as they get rooted well.” Moreover, the person/organisation/body/company cutting the tree(s) needs to ensure that the compensatory plants survive for the first seven years. The trees need to be geotagged as well. “Only then would it count as compensatory plantation,” said Mhaiskar. “If some trees die in the process, then the same number of saplings will have to be planted again.”

In case a compensatory plantation is not possible, the applicant may deposit an amount that is not less than the economic valuation of the total trees being felled.

Tree Authority formation

The amendments also make room for the formation of Maharashtra State Tree Authority that will be tasked with “increasing the tree cover in urban areas and protecting the existing ones.” It will also hear appeals for heritage trees and cases where more than 200 trees need to be cut.

“It is said that every town should have at least 33 per cent of green cover,” said Mhaiskar. “However, most towns don’t. We are also suggesting that each town or ULB should have a Tree Plan, very much like a Development Plan, and they should aspire over the years to have 33 per cent green belt in their area.”


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