An application seeking approval for felling a dangerous tree in Chandigarh has to clear at least a dozen channels, if there are no objections en route, and it could take several months, if not a year, to be processed. And while the file moves in government corridors, the applicant is left at the mercy of Mother Nature. If lucky, the tree survives the strong winds; if not, it falls and causes damage to life and property, which the UT Administration is likely to dismiss as an “Act of God” as it did before the Punjab and Haryana Court recently.
Officials of the UT horticulture wing say that after an application for felling a tree is received at the department, a report is prepared with photographs of the tree and its condition after a field visit. The file then moves from the executive engineer of the horticulture department to superintending engineer. From superintending engineer, the file then goes to the chief engineer and from there to the principal secretary (home) who further sends it for approval of the Adviser. He then sends the file to the forest department (Chief Conservator of Forest) who then tasks his staff with carrying out an inspection and preparing a report.
If there is no objection, the report is sent to the Chief Conservator of Forest who then gives a final nod and sends the file back to the Adviser, who sends it back to the chain involving the Principal Secretary Home, Chief Engineer et al. Finally, the SDO and JE concerned decide to chop the tree.
But if the tree that is to be felled falls in the compound of a department/office which has not sent the application, the file is sent to the department concerned for a no objection certificate.
Ramesh Sharma, executive engineer of the UT Administration’s horticulture wing, told Chandigarh Newsline, “This is the procedure which we have to follow. We cannot do anything.”
Baljinder Singh Bittu, chairman of Federation of Sectors Welfare Association of Chandigarh, said, “They do not want to work. How can they quickly get approval for felling over 500 lush green trees for Tribune flyover and it takes them months to chop off dangerous trees? Why are there two sets of rules?”
As regards Thursday’s incident, the UT horticulture wing stated that “they did carry the necessary pruning”.
UT Chief Engineer Mukesh Anand asked Superintending Engineer Yashpal Gupta to get done the timely pruning of the dead eucalyptus trees.
Arun Sood, local BJP councillor in whose area the tree fell, questioned the administration, “Are we waiting for trees to fall on schoolchildren now?” Sood said that a tree fell in the same school four years ago as well. He said he had been fighting against this red tape for the last seven years.
“All government schools have eucalyptus trees and they all have completed their age now. What are we waiting for? Why can’t we pull down these dead trees? The poor man was waiting for children when a part of the tree fell on his auto, and then we say it is an act of God,” Sood said. “What if there were children inside the auto when this happened?”
The councillor said that four years ago, a tree in the school compound fell on the rear side and there was a high-tension wire. Had the tree fallen on a high-tension wire, many people would have been electrocuted,” he said.
A representation on April 20, 2017 was made by the residents and the school principal to remove or trim the dead trees. The executive engineer said that they did carry out pruning.
However, Sood questioned the wisdom of pruning the tree. “A tree is about to fall and you carry out pruning. How wise is this?” see also page 2