Mumbai: First it was heritage buildings, and now, Maharashtra will soon have heritage trees. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government, in a bid to protect and preserve old trees, proposes to amend the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, to strike a balance between the development and environment conservation.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar told The Free Press Journal, “The idea is to preserve and protect old trees by giving them heritage status. Trees that are in the way of roads, highways and other infrastructure projects will be saved, not cut. The government will soon form a committee to identify such trees to accord them heritage status and decide on other necessary norms.”
He recalled that Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray had last year written to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to protect a 400-year-old banyan tree in Sangli which stood right in the middle of a NHAI project. Gadkari responded positively and the tree was saved, with NHAI realigning the highway.
A senior bureaucrat said, “The state environment department will move a proposal for cabinet’s approval to amend the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Preservation of Trees Act, 1975. The government proposes to define heritage trees and also lay down the norms for trimming, transplant and cutting.”
He noted that the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, was enacted to make better provision for trees in urban areas in the state by regulating the felling of trees and providing for the planting of an adequate number of new trees in those areas. “This is necessary, as with the growing pace of urbanisation and industrialisation, there has been indiscriminate felling of large numbers of trees in the urban areas of the state,” he said.
Conservation Action Trust Executive Trustee Debi Goenka hailed the state government’s move. “I am glad that the government has decided to implement a heritage tree scheme. We have a number of old giants that need special attention and a special status. Heritage trees, once identified, should not be allowed to be cut or damaged in any manner whatsoever. A special register of such trees should be maintained as well, along with geotagged photos,” he noted.
According to Goenka, seeds from such trees should also be collected for propagation. “The responsibility for looking after each tree should also be clearly defined. It would be wonderful if this concept could be expanded to cover all our trees,” he opined.
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