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CRIME AGAINST NATURE : Age-old mango trees in India axed, one by one


Environmentalists say that inclusion of mango on this list has resulted in indiscriminate felling of old trees in the Western Ghats region.

Who would have thought that one misguided decision taken by officials and lawmakers could lead to large-scale felling of age-old mango trees in the Western Ghats? An amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976, passed at the Belagavi legislature session, has lead to just that.

The amendment allows for the felling of certain varieties of trees without the permission of the Department of Forests. The department issued an order on March 3, 2015, listing 26 species of trees that are exempt from the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, and mango is among them. 

Environmentalists, however, decry that inclusion of mango on this list has resulted in indiscriminate felling of old mango trees. 

Anant Hegde Ashisar, former chairman of the Western Ghats Task Force, said only grafted mango trees should have been listed and not the wild mango trees. 

Taking advantage of this error, timber contractors had been felling wild mango trees in large numbers in the Western Ghats region. 

Moreover, mango was one among the species, which had been declared a heritage tree by the Karnataka Biodiversity Board. How could the department exempt it from the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, he asked.

Mr. Ashisar pointed out that the ‘hebbevu’ ( Melia dubia ), ‘ranjalu’, ‘betta’ and ‘kadudhoopa’ trees were also on the list.

 The Act was amended to exempt some horticulture trees to help farmers. But these three varieties were forest species. This was yet another opportunity to plunder the forests. The government should immediately withdraw the order and send Forest officials to the Western Ghats region for spot inspection, Mr. Ashisar said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests G.V. Sugur told The Hindu that the issue had been brought to his notice. Environmentalists have been told to give a representation, which will be forwarded to the government.

The order was originally issued to help farmers. If it was causing harm to some tree varieties, it could be modified. But the government had to decide on it, Mr. Sugur said.

No permission needed to fell certain trees following a recent amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act

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