Policy note by Alt Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change

The Life and Death of a Tree.

Environmental Policy Note

  1. Ownership of the trees. Trees are our shared heritage and as such those on Public/Government land should not be allowed to be destroyed without going through an SOP that includes full consultation and approval from both.
  2. The following stakeholders will be involved.
    a) General public – comprising 5 student representatives each from schools and colleges and 10 local planners/architects, local environmental/sustainability experts. (These numbers are indicative, both numbers and voting weightage will be worked out systematically). At least half the panel MUST comprise women.
    b) Govt Agency responsible for the land.
    c) Agency needing to use the land.
    d) Representatives from the Media.
    e) Tech support for recording, transcribing and documenting the meetings.
  3. Complete transparency is MANDATORY. FULL details of the project planning including reasons for Site selection (as well as those for rejection of alternate sites considered) must be put up for public viewing, online as well as offline. Details must also contain public feedback and commentary. Standardized formats to be used for this.
  4. There will be a process of appeal in case a decision is taken to cut trees. This is based on similar grounds as the death penalty in the Indian courts. “Rarest of the rare cases”, and with provision for appeal right till the end. This is a death sentence for a tree. Actual modalities for this have to be worked out, but until this is done, there will be a COMPLETE MORATORIUM ON ANY TREE FELLING involving more than ten trees.
  5. Compensation – In case tree felling is decided upon as unavoidable, two kinds of compensation are mandatory. One is Compensatory Aforrestation (full details of which HAVE to be displayed prominently at the site where the trees have been felled, and updated on a weekly basis for a minimum period of ten years). The second is a price on each tree that is destroyed. Price of each tree should not be less than Rs one lakh per year of the tree’s age. The amount will be paid into an environmental account that will operate locally (modalities to be decided). The objective being to deter casual deforestation in the guise of development, with the deterrent increasing with the density, quality and age of the forest.
  6. Land use – In order to prevent any opportunistic exploitation and misuse of land by the simple expedient of “Change of Land Use”, any such change shall only happen after it clears the rigorous process outlined above, and the reclassification SHALL BE RESTRICTED SOLELY TO THE SPECIFIC PROJECT IN QUESTION.

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