None of the city-based NGOs or experts are registered with the Department of Social Forestry (SFD), which is an essential criterion for appointing an arboricultural expert to the Tree Authority (TA). However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Commission (BMC) committee had to bypass this criterion in 2012 when selecting tree experts, as none were registered with the SFD.
It is within the scope of the civic body’s powers to change the appointment rules in accordance with a sub-clause of the Tree Act. It allowed them to nominate people who are not registered with the SFD. Interestingly, the civic body decided to stick to the rules in the 2017 appointments so that no expert was available to become a member of the authority.
According to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Tree Protection and Preservation Act 1975, a Tree Authority (TA) consists of at least five members and at most 15 members. Each Tree Authority can appoint representatives of non-governmental organizations, who have specific knowledge or practical experience in the field of tree planting and preservation.
However, new rules were introduced on December 14, 2009, which required that any person belonging to an NGO appointed as a member of the TA, must be an active and registered member of the government’s Social Forestry Department and also have a rich experience of at least 10 years in the field. This rule change has become the heart of the current controversy.
Last year, the Garden Department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Company asked forestry departments about NGOs registered with them and learned that there were none. “While they didn’t exactly mention the absence of a registered NGO, it was indicative of the same,” a BMC official said on condition of anonymity. They also did not mention whether an NGO or an expert had requested registration.
“This rule requiring the appointment of experts did not come into force until 2009, but as no expert was available for appointments in 2012, the then opposition leader asked the ruling party to appoint experts under his authority, “added the BMC official.
LOOK BEFORE CUTTING
The Tree Authority must deliberate when more than 25 trees are cut down for development work
BMC Tree Authority is supposed to consist of 15 members, 13 legal entities, a chair of the garden committee and a municipal commissioner as chair.
Under a new rule, the Tree Authority meets every 21 days; previously, the time gap was 45 days.
A meeting of the Trees Authority is to be held on Monday, but the proposals concerning the cutting of trees will not be discussed in this context.