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Sub: Indiscriminate felling of trees in Bangalore

Dear Sir,

This is to bring to your kind attention an authorized plan by the BMP to fell over 700 trees in Bangalore city. The trees to be felled include 35 trees on Dr. Rajkumar Road, 36 trees on Sampige Road, 26 trees on Malleshwaram 5th cross Road, 19 trees on Jaymahal Road as well as trees on St Marks Road, Vijaynagar, M.G. Road, Residency Road, Vani Vilas Road, Bull Temple Road, Raj Mahal Vilas Road, Race Course Road, and many other areas throughout Bangalore.

It is clear that once these trees have been felled, the landscape of Bangalore would have been irrevocably altered. Over a century's effort in growing trees along roadsides and maintaining them which has made Bangalore a unique city worldwide would have been negated. The pride of Bangalore which is the extensive variety of large, lovely and towering trees which create an ambience of shade and comfort even in the increasingly hot summers would have been irrevocably destroyed.

Being aware of the great value that these trees add to Bangalore environment, ordinary citizens including school and college students, office goers and passersby have been protesting by the unique method of climbing and hugging the trees. The BMP to circumvent this genuine concern of the citizens had then started felling trees in the nighttime thereby averting the possibility of protest. Following this concerned citizens who came together under the banner of Hasire Usiru, had a strong protest and meeting with the Commissioner, BMP verbally agreed to temporarily halt the felling. However inspite of this agreement, trees are continuing to be cut in areas such as Hanumantnagar and Jayamahal.
The reasons, according to the Commissioner of BMP for the felling of trees is widening of roads. In a city like Bangalore where private vehicles are added to the streets by the hundreds on a daily basis it is a matter of very short time that even this space ЁfreedЁ by the felling of trees is filled up. What is required at this juncture is not short-term solutions like widening of roads by chopping (illegally at that) healthy trees but a comprehensive traffic management plan. We know that a Task Force has been constituted for this purpose under the Chairmanship of Mr. Brahm Dutt, Home and Transport Secretary. It would be more sensible for such a programme to be prepared before any tree felling is further taken up, it at all. We request that all meetings of the Task Force be held with the public invited so that the citizens can participate to create transport solutions for the city. This is to emphasize that we are interested in participating so that we can have practical long-term solutions to the increasing traffic problem in Bangalore.

Further the felling of these trees is illegal in every sense of the word for it violates the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976. The BMP Commissioner, Mr. Jyotirmalingam insists that he is not bound by this Act of the Karnataka legislature, and insists that he is authorized to fell trees under the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976. The provisions he refers to as authorizing him to fell trees are Sec 323 and clause 20 in Sec 58. A close reading of these provisions indicates that Sec 323 gives the power to cut the tree only if immediate action is required and it is necessary to prevent danger. Sec 58 clause 20 gives the Commissioner power to remove obstructions and projections upon streets and other public places. The above reading by the Commissioner of his powers under the Act are clearly erroneous as a Special Legislation such as the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act meant to regulate felling of trees has overriding power over a general legislation such as the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act. Under Sec 8 of the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, only a tree officer can authorize the felling of the tree.

In conclusion, we must say that the tree felling acts are callous and in utter disregard for both the future of the city as well as the needs of its inhabitants has resulted in a wave of anger among the concerned citizenry who have spontaneously and uniquely protested by climbing trees and not allowing the felling to continue.

In the words of the Native American Chief Seattle:

ЁOnly when the last tree has died,
and the last river has been poisoned,
and the last fish has been caught,
will we realise that we cannot eat money. Ё

We write to you to respond favorably to the concerns of a wide-ranging section of Bangaloreans and ensure the following:

1) No further felling of any living trees.
2) Constitution of a committee of concerned citizens and the concerned government officials in the decision making process for any further tree felling
3) All meetings of the Task Force on Traffic Management be held transparently where public are invited.
4) Compensatory tree planting of two, five year old saplings of the same species for all the trees which have been felled so far.
5) Investigation into the reasons as to why over 70 trees have already been felled in violation of the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act and action against those guilty.

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Jenifer FarmerBy:
Petition target:
His Excellency Governor of Karnataka


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