Madhav Gadgil on why tree census must be a government exercise and not a private one
Madhav Gadgil is an Indian ecologist, academic, writer, and founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, a research forum under the aegis of the Indian Institute of Science. Madhav speaks to Prachi Bari about the ongoing tree census 2016-2018 and the threats to the city’s green cover.
What is your opinion on the tree census?
From what I understand about the last census -conducted from 2007 to 2013 - the data was never made available to the public for verification. Much of the government data is fraudulent and I have often published about the issue in the Indian National Science Academy. The environmental analysis reports, for example, are really useless. Moreover, allowing a company to undertake the census through the tender process is improper and unnecessary.
Why do you think it is improper for a company to undertake the census?
We have had a Biological Diversity Act since 2002, and as per the act, there should be an active Biodiversity Management Committee which is responsible for generating proper documentation of the biodiversity in an area. This committee should undertake this task and interact with citizens to ensure that a region’s flora and fauna are safe. Moreover, the money given through the tender process can be given to colleges, as grants to conduct an effective census.This will foster public participation and will also ensure that the data is available to the public. It will be transparent and is a better way to use the money.
Have Biodiversity Management Committees been set up anywhere in the country?
There was one committee set up in Bangalore and Vandana Chavan, when she was mayor of Pune, was interested in setting up a Biodiversity Management Committee. Unfortunately the plan never came to fruition. The government does not want to conduct a census which will be available to the public because of vested interests. The government is helping builders and developers by giving them greater concessions.
What are the most immediate threats to the green cover in the city?
The building lobby is putting a lot of pressure on the green cover by asking for greater Floor Space Index (It is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built). The most extensive tree cover in the city can be found on law college road and on vetal tekdi until Bavdhan. Unfortunately, the government is planning to uproot these trees to make roads and tunnels. This will be a huge loss to the city.
Will the ongoing census help in any way?
This census will not help at all. A long term policy to stop tree felling needs to be created. The government must also stop increasing the FSI and actively promote and encourage citizens to help plant and nurture trees.