The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) now aims to go hi-tech to gain a clean green image.
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Going with the trends of the IT capital and borrowing its technological feather, the corporation within another three months aims to introduce an online tree felling grievances mechanism.
Every year, around 3,000 permissions for axing trees are issued by the Tree Officer (Assistant Conservator of Forests), under the Tree Authority of the BBMP. In some areas, there are examples of trees being felled even during late night hours. But there is no formal record (online record with verification) explaining why the tree was axed. Thus the BBMP and the Forest cell have earned a bad reputation, with accusations of cheating, bribery, corruption and so on.
Now in an effort to wash away all past deeds and track all applications, an online system is being introduced. Here the applicant can request online, for felling or pruning a tree. Objections can also be posted here. Reviewing all the responses, the Tree Officer decides whether to axe a tree or not. However if people are dissatisfied with the decision of the Tree Officer, they can complain to the Tree Authority.
The Tree Authority and the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of the BBMP Forest cell can see all the petitions and revoke the action. They can also take action against the Tree Officer.
‘No grievance mechanism in the Act’
CCF Brijesh Kumar says that the Karnataka Prevention of Trees Act does not provide a sound mechanism for calling for objections from the public. It only looks at felling trees in private land.
“The maximum number of requests for cutting trees come from public spaces. But there was no proper mechanism to keep track of it. Files are prepared but are not well-maintained and stored. Therefore this online system is being introduced,” he says.
Brijesh adds that the website is being prepared with the help of KEONICS and will be open to public within three months. “We are presently working on the design and feedback mechanism,” he informs.
How does it work?
Once an application is filed and all columns are filled, including filling in personal details of the applicant, the applicant will have to take a print out. Once he gives the print command, the application will go to the CCF and will be saved in the online database.
Some of the details will include the tree species, aproximate age of the tree (if known), valid reason for felling the tree, geographical location, whether the tree is on public or private land and so on.
The applicant will have to submit the signed application to the BBMP office manually. The request will also be posted on the online bulletin board in the BBMP website. The application will be on the bulletin board for 15 days. During this period, people can file their objections.
The objections will also have to be filled like an application is filed, including personal details of the one who is objecting. The person objecting will also have to take a print out and manually submit the signed form to the BBMP office. Once the print command is given, the online objection will be stored in the BBMP database and will be posted on the BBMP online bulletin board.
After 15 days, the Tree Officer will act accordingly after going through all the objections and requests. Through this system, the CCF and all members of the Tree Authority (Mayor, Commissioner, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Joint Director of Horticulture from the BBMP and Corporator representative) can keep a tab on the acts of the Tree Officer and even object to the felling orders.
There is no fee attached to filing applications and objections. If a tree is being axed in a public area, the BBMP does not charge any money. But if it is a private land and the owner is claiming ownership of the tree but wants to get rid of it, he then has to pay a fee. The charges range from Rs 2,000- 10,000.
“Since the BBMP has to take care of the boundary walls of the compound, overhead and underground cables, pipelines, other houses and many such variants, the charges vary,” says Brijesh.
Loopholes in the new system
- There is no official tree census, and trees are not numbered. So it is difficult to locate which tree is being cut, when one among many similar trees cut in public place.
- Many people don’t have interest to go online, and everyone doesn’t have access to internet. The new system doesn’t address how people can come to know when an application has been put, unless they are constantly checking the BBMP website online.
Tree felling permissions given in last three years
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