Trees are important, valuable and necessary for the existence of any living creature on earth. They are essential to life as we know it and are the ground troops on an environmental frontline.
Oxygen production, cleaning the soil, controlling noise pollution, slowing down stormwater runoff, acting as carbon sinks, cleaning the air, providing shade and coolness, being windbreaks and fighting soil erosion can be considered as the first few reasons why trees are priceless.
In the State of Maharashtra, the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 makes a better provision for trees in the urban areas by regulating felling of trees and providing for a planting of an adequate number of new trees in those areas.
This act states that no can fell any tree or cause any tree to be felled, whether of ownership or otherwise, in an urban area without seeking the permission of the Tree Authority.
According to the Act, “urban area” means a municipal corporation area for which a municipal corporation is constituted under the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 1949 or the City of Nagpur Corporation Act, 1948, or a municipal area for which Municipal Council is constituted under the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965, and includes a notified area for which a Special Planning Authority is constituted or appointed under section 40 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 or an area designated as the site for a new town for which a Development Authority is constituted under section 113 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966.
The Act also defines “urban local authority” in respect of any urban area as the municipal corporation, municipal council, Special Planning Authority or Development Authority, as the case may be, having jurisdiction over that area.
If a tree needs to be felled then permission to do so must be gained from the Tree Authority (TA) through an application. This application must include the description of the tree, location, a site plan and reasons for wanting the tree to be felled.
Within 30 days of receiving the application, a Tree Officer must personally inspect the tree, hold an inquiry and report back to the TA. Adequate public notice is to be given by the Tree Officer by advertising in the local newspapers as well as a notice must be fixed on the tree itself. The TA must give or refuse permission within 60 days from receipt of application with/without conditions. Such permission shall not be refused if, in the opinion of the TA, the tree is dead, diseased, wind-fallen, poses a danger to life or property and/or obstructs traffic.
However, no tree shall be felled until fifteen days after such permission is given. If any objection is received against such permission, the matter shall be placed before the TA for reconsideration. A decision shall be taken within two weeks after giving a hearing to the person who has raised the objection.
In accordance with the act, if you witness any tree being cut in urban areas in the State of Maharashtra, then you can take the following course of action:
- Enquire from the people involved in cutting the tree(s) if they have the necessary permission from the concerned Tree Authority.
- Enquire from the people living or working around the sight of the tree cutting if there was any notice put up on a conspicuous part of the tree about the felling
- Find out if there was adequate public notice given out by advertising in local newspapers about the felling
In case you find any ambiguities with one or more of the points stated above and if the tree being targeted was not dead or diseased or wind-fallen or constituted a danger to life or property or obstructed traffic, then you can file a complaint at the nearest police station or write a complaint letter to the Chairman of the Tree Authority of that area describing the situation. You can substantiate your claims by collecting as much information as possible about the destruction of the tree, like date, time and exact location, photographs and/or videos of the destruction, registration numbers of vehicles that are being used in the process, etc.