Taking a strict stance against illegal hacking of trees in the city, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday announced a probe into cutting of 20 big trees in an Andheri (E) ward in a month by civic officials without approval from the Tree Authority.
Fadnavis said those found guilty of illegal hacking would face action and the government would take strict action against any such incidents in the future.
He added that the Tree Authority and the civic body would be asked to set up a technical committee to study and make recommendations to arrest the fungal infection spread to several rain trees in the city. Fadnavis said this in his reply to a question raised by legislator Ramesh Latke during the Question Hour.
Pointing to the tree-hacking incident in Andheri, Latke questioned how assistant civic commissioner of the K-east ward hacked trees without getting the mandatory nod from the Tree Authority in violation of the existing Maharashtra Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975?
BJP legislator and city chief Ashish Shelar during the discussion had raised the issue of 50 to 60 rain trees being affected by fungal infections and dying suddenly. Shelar had said that citizens were finding the rampant spread of the fungus as suspicious and some steps must be taken to stop this. The 2007 tree census had found that the city has 19 lakh trees.
Even as the CM batted for the greens by appointing these committees, he also pointed out that there had been several complaints against the Tree Authority from legislators and as such the civic commissioner had been granted sweeping powers to clear cutting of trees. He added that the state was working on overall rules to make tree-cutting sanctions easier and these would then be made mandatory in all civic bodies.
Earlier, the civic body had proposed that clearances granted by the Tree Authority should be made self-certified to ensure ease of doing business. Developers have consistently complained against the Tree Authority terming the authority as unnecessary and one that slows down development.