This article is written by Ayush Agarwal, a student of UPES.
Maybe you are walking on the road you and you see someone cutting trees planted in their premises. Is there something you can do about it?
Everyone reads and knows that the environment is getting depleted and they should do something about it, but no one knows what to. Saving what we have is the best and the easiest option. If you are in residing in Delhi then you have at least one option. The option is checking if the person cutting a tree has a proper permission. One needs to take the permission of the Trees Authority established under Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994 to cut or trim any tree.
What is the act all about?
Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994 was passed in order to save the trees planted in the National Capital of India from getting depleted due to human activities. The act aimed at keeping a check on cutting of trees by the owners of the trees on their land. The act gave birth to Tree Authority in the National Capital region of India for the preservation of trees.
Let’s look into some of the duties of Tree Authority which the act defines:
- Preservation of trees under its Jurisdiction.
- Undertaking critical study of the proposals of various departments and private bodies for construction of buildings, roads, factories, irrigation work, laying out of electric, telephonic, telegraph, and other transmission lines with regard to protection of existing trees and planting of more trees, whenever possible.
- Also carrying out the census of existing trees and also obtaining declaration from all owners of occupants about the number of trees on their land.
Restrictions imposed by the Act:
The law made a reasonable restriction on the owners of the trees. It is acting as a check on the number of trees you are having and then making you liable for the tree you cut. One can own a land but cannot own the environment.
Keeping this in mind the act restricts a person from cutting a tree or its branch. The act says that no person shall fell, remove or dispose of any tree or any forest produce in any land. Restriction is on the trees under your ownership or occupancy or otherwise. If you want to fell, remove or dispose a tree then you have obtain previous permission from the Tree Officer. Without proper permission one cannot do the act.
- What if there is grave danger and the authorities cannot be informed immediately?
When if the tree is not immediately felled, then there would be grave danger to life or property or traffic then in these types of situations the owner can take an immediate action to fell the tree. The fact should be reported to the Tree Officer within twenty-four hours of such felling.
Want to cut, dispose or fell a tree? Procedure:
If a person desires to cut, dispose or fell a tree then the person has to make an application to the concerned Tree officer for permission. Such application (has to be accompanied by attested copies of such documents as prescribed in support of:
- Ownership over the land.
- The number and kind of trees to be cut.
- Their girth measure.
- The reason for cutting the tree.
After inspection, the Tree Officer may either grant permission in whole or in part or for the reasons recorded in writing.
When application cannot be turned down?
There are certain situations where the permission for the act cannot be denied by the officer. The situations which the Act specifies are:
- When the tree is dead, diseased or wind fallen,
- Is silviculturally mature, provided that the tree does not occur on steep slope,
- Constitutes danger to life or property,
- Constitutes obstruction to traffic,
- The tree is substantially damaged or destroyed by fire, lightening, rain or other natural causes.
Unlike other application and cases in India, Tree Officer has to make his decision within 60 days of the receipt of the application. Failing to comply with the time period, the permission is assumed to be granted.
How many times permission can be obtained?
Permission is restricted to one hectare at a time. So the officer can grant permission only twice a year to any person in one area. This controls too many persons obtaining person to cut down the tree on the same land having providing unreasonable reasons.
Obligation to plant Tree:
The whole idea behind preserving the tree will fail if people without being imposed any penalty gets permission to cut, fell or dispose a tree because every person will come with some or the other ultimate reason to cut the tree down.
The Preservation of Trees act has mandated that any person obtaining the requisite permission to dispose or cut or feel the tree, is bound to plant such number and kind of trees in the area from which the tree is felled or disposed. The person should start the preparatory work in 30 days after taking the permission from the Tree officer. If the person fails to do so then the Tree officer has to make the tree planted and the officer can recover the requisite cost from the person.
So next time you see someone cutting a tree stop them (being a nature lover or human being) and ask whether he obtained the requisite permission and planted the tree or not.
Penalties and Procedure:
More than officer’s responsibility, it’s our responsibility towards nature to check whether someone is following the guidelines or not. If you really care about sustainable development then do report. Reporting will attract following penalties:
- Seizure of Property: If the Tree officer believe that the offence has been committed under this act with respect of trees, then the officer may seize (i) tools, (ii) implements, (iii) any boats, (iv) vehicles, (v) animals or (vi) other conveyances used for the commission.
- Power to arrest without warrant: Any tree officer or a forest officer not below the rank the rank of a Forest Ranger or a Police Officer.
- Penalty: A person can be punished with one year imprisonment or fine exceeding to ₹1000 or both.
An individual may approach the Forest Settlement Officer, A.D.M. (HQ.), Tis Hazari, Delhi, with their claims for excluding the same in writing.
Your duty…Not specified but expected.
It is the duty of an individual to provide information regarding commission of forest offence which includes cutting of trees and killing of wild animals and also information regarding fires in Government forests. A control whom has been setup at the Divisional Head Quarter of every Tree Officer, where any complaint regarding Forest & Wildlife offence at Phone No 23923561/26094711/23361879/23378514.
A Tree Help Line has been set up to attend any complaints regarding felling or damaging the trees including lopping at Phone No. 23378513.
It is true that the person owns the land which make him ultimate owner of the property on the land. Tree is the part of the same land, then why a person is not reasonably allowed to cut the tree? Owing a land and owing the nature are two different things. You may own the tangible asset on the land but you cannot control its depreciation. One cannot own the oxygen he takes in and the oxygen comes from the trees. So how could a person suppose himself to be the owner of the tree?
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