Plaint filed with Lokayukta against illegal felling of trees in Kodagu

Plaint filed with Lokayukta against illegal felling of trees in Kodagu

A complaint has been filed with the Lokayukta against the government notification issued in 2015 exempting mango, Hebbevu (Melia dubia) and Belanji from the list of trees that can be cut and transported.

The complainant, K A Ravi Chengappa, stated that the timber mafia, in connivance with the officials of the Forest department, was indulging in illegal felling of large number of trees in Kodagu district.

The notification in question, issued in March 2015, included three species in the erstwhile list of 23 species. The notification was issued to include three species – Hebbevu (Melia dubia), Belanji (Acrocarpous fraxnifolius) and mango – in the list of species such as rubber, coconut, areca nut, coffee, guava, acacia mangium exempted from regulations on cutting and transportation.

“The last notification in this regard was issued in 2002 and 2004 under the Karnataka Forest Rules. This was done with a purpose to facilitate the timber mafia to cut trees anywhere and everywhere in the district. Belanji is a tree which is full of leaves in the summer and sheds leaves in the winter. Similarly, mango and Hebbevu also spread as canopy and provide filtering shade for pepper and coffee. The felling of trees is going on unabated ever since this notification was issued. We filed a writ petition challenging this notification and the High Court Acting Chief Justice bench directed us to approach the then Additional Chief Secretary for Forests Madan Gopal,” Chengappa said.

The Forest Department, meanwhile, withdrew the mango tree from the notification while retaining the other two trees. The activists from Kaveri Sene, headed by Chengappa, collected more details and found that despite the State government withdrawing the inclusion of mango tree from the list of exempted trees, several trees had been cut.

Timber is being smuggled to neighbouring Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the complaint stated.

“According to the rules, valuation amount for each tree will have to paid to the Forest Department for the trees cut in the unredeemed property. We have collected documents which suggest that the timber mafia has chopped trees in unredeemed property by showing the documents of a redeemed property. The original owners of these lands were completely unaware of trees being cut in their property. The documents were used to cut trees from other private lands and also forestlands. Hopefully, the Lokayukta institution will take note of the seriousness of the complaint and take action to save trees in Kodagu district,” he said.

 

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