The Maharashtra Cabinet on Thursday passed an action plan to protect and preserve trees older than 50 years in urban areas by terming them heritage trees.
The plan includes the concept of heritage tree and plan of action for conservation; method to define age of the tree; compensatory plantation; rules to be followed before hacking trees; formation of the Maharashtra Tree Authority; structure of the local tree authority and their duties; tree census; fixing land of tree plantation; transplantation of trees; and tree cess and fine to be charged.
The State will also bring about amendments in the Maharashtra (Urban Area) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act. As per the plan, trees older than 50 will be termed heritage trees. The Environment and Climate Change Department will issue guidelines in consultation with the State Forest Department based on the existing methods.
Compensatory plantation will include planting the number of trees equivalent to the age of trees to be cut. The saplings need to be six to eight feet in height while planting and they will undergo geo-tagging with seven years of caring period. The option of monetary compensation has also been given, instead of compensatory plantation.
A State-level Tree Authority will be formed to protect and preserve heritage trees. The authority will hear applications seeking permission to cut 200 or more trees that are five or more years old. The local tree authorities will come under this body. Tree experts will be part of the local tree authorities. These bodies will ensure that the tree census is conducted after every five years. They will also be in charge of counting heritage trees, ensuring their preservation, keeping tabs on tree plantation, pruning and caring of trees, and ensuring that 33% of government land is used for tree plantation.
The State authority will issue directions for the use of tree cess. The fine amount cannot be more than ₹1 lakh per tree in case of violations.