ANYONE WHO fells a tree will now have to plant two saplings apart from shelling out Rs 1,000 to the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC).
Failure to do so would result in criminal action under Section 10 of the Madhya Pradesh Vrikshon Ka Parirakshan (Nagriya Kshetra) Adhiniyam, 2001that calls for fines ranging up to Rs 50,000 and/or a maximum prison term of two years not only for labourers felling the trees but also the land owner.
Hearings would be held in a court presided over by the Indore municipal commissioner who has been appointed tree officer for urban areas under the Act.
The legislation, however, empowers the commissioner to waive off criminal action in lieu of a charge of Rs 5,000 levied for every axed tree.
Orders for compensatory afforestation and the Rs 1,000 fees were issued on Monday by commissioner Vinod Sharma who declared that the garden officer and zonal officer concerned would be held responsible if trees were felled without permission.
He directed them to inspect the site and submit written reports whenever a complaint about illegal tree felling was lodged at the IMC control room.
The orders come in the wake of a High Court directive in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) directing the tree officer (commissioner) to judge each tree felling case on merit.
It may be noted that the responsibility for safeguarding green cover in rural pockets under the Act has been vested with the nagarpalika chief executive officer.
Before 2001, the district magistrate was empowered to authorise felling of trees in both rural and urban areas. Usually, permission was granted only if the tree had become too old and was in danger of toppling over or to pave the way for road widening, laying of power cables or installation of electricity poles.
However, environmental organisations often protested this arrangement claiming that the already overburdened district administration could not be expected to personally supervise illegal tree felling.
The charges are not altogether without basis. Enquiries at the collector’s office revealed that neither a single application nor permission to axe tress was granted during all of last year.