KMC Focuses on the Protection of Greens in Kolkata

Among the big cities of India, Kolkata has one of the lowest green cover.

Greenery is essential in any city to combat air pollution. There is a huge need in Kolkata to preserve the existing trees and plant new trees.

A tree can provide an essential of life for all living things on our planet – oxygen, and the power to remove harmful gases like carbon dioxide making the air we breathe healthier.

A tree absorbs anywhere between 10 and 40kg of carbon dioxide annually on average and adds enough oxygen for 4 people daily.

The absorbed carbon dioxide is stored in the trunks and branches of the tree. If the tree is felled, micro-organisms work on the tree and the stored carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere.

In a city where the Air Quality Index is usually high (signifying poor air quality), trees are massively beneficial to the health of the citizens.

It is a matter of concern that trees are often felled because of various development needs.

Trees and the Need for Development

On several occasions, infrastructure development demanded the need to cut down trees.

Let us recount some of the recent cases and examine the administrative and judicial standpoints.

One such case was the need to cut down more than 300 trees to build 5 railway over-bridges on NH 112. Kolkata High Court passed a judgement allowing this which was later upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Another similar case was the plea by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) to cut down more than 700 trees near Maidan for the construction of the Joka-Esplanade Metro. The Calcutta High Court refused to pass any order allowing that. It stated that there is a need to balance public interest with sustainability.

Some time back, the Calcutta High Court directed one Soumitra Kanti Dey to pay a considerable penalty and plant 100 trees for illegally cutting down nearly 62 trees on one premises, under the garb of removing stagnated water. “The cutting of trees has nothing to do with the removal of accumulated water,” the Court observed.

Permission for Tree Felling

There are laws governing tree felling in West Bengal and they stipulate obtaining official permission to cut trees even if they are on private property.

If it is found that a tree has been hacked illegally, one can lodge a complaint with the police, forest department, or the KMC.

A resident of Kolkata who wants to cut a tree must first obtain an NOC from the KMC.

An application has to be sent to the Divisional Forest Officer (Utilisation) along with the NOC seeking permission to cut the tree.

The applications can be made online on the forest department’s website.

On various occasions, the Mayor of Kolkata expressed his displeasure against the illegal felling of trees and advised KMC to sternly deal with such cases.

The Dangers of Disappearing Trees

Trees are essential parts of our ecosystem and vital for sustainable living in Kolkata. Not only do they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen in the atmosphere, but they also prevent soil erosion and help keep the temperature low, especially during the sweltering summer.

Trees are essential for fighting the general temperature rise, especially in our cities. By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, trees help mitigate the greenhouse effect. They also provide shade and keep the ground temperature low.

They also provide shelter to birds and other animals such as squirrels.

Moreover, trees make the surroundings pleasant and they help beautify any area.

Large-scale disappearance of trees is not only undesirable but is ecologically dangerous.

KMC Gets Tough on Illegal Tree Felling

The authorities are well aware of these issues and they are all for protecting the environment in Kolkata.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) buildings department has adopted a proactive approach to combat deforestation associated with construction projects.

They will withhold the issuance of completion certificates (CC) for housing projects or individual buildings if trees are felled without the necessary permissions. Officials will visit construction sites during the plan submission phase to compare planned tree numbers with actual ones. Developers must secure permissions from the state forest department and the KMC parks department to cut trees. Any unauthorized tree-cutting will result in FIRs and withheld CCs.

To enforce this policy effectively, officials from the buildings department have been directed to visit construction sites as soon as building plans are submitted by architects. During these visits, they will meticulously compare the number of trees indicated in the building plans with the actual number of trees present on the site. This scrutiny is essential to ensure that trees are not needlessly removed during the construction process.

Massive Public Support against Illegal Tree Felling

In one case of illegal tree felling in Ballygunge, local people prevented cutting down another tree at the same premises.

Also, several environmental watch groups are very proactive in such cases and this policy further strengthens their hands.

Common people are now aware of the vital roles trees play in our environment, especially in a city like Kolkata where green cover is rather low. All citizens must be alert against illegal deforestation and support the cause of the environment.

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