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Goa Authority shows green flag for 99.3% tree felling

The PIL filed by Living Heritage Foundation, a Goa-based NGO, has also stated that Goa has lost over 77,000 trees as the Tree Authority in the two districts of the state has failed to ensure replantation of the trees by the applicants who were allowed to fell trees.

In the last ten years, the Tree Authority in Goa has allowed 99.3 per cent of the applications it received for felling of trees and rejected 0.3 per cent, a PIL filed before the High Court of Bombay at Goa has claimed, based on analysis of data received under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

The PIL filed by Living Heritage Foundation, a Goa-based NGO, has also stated that Goa has lost over 77,000 trees as the Tree Authority in the two districts of the state has failed to ensure replantation of the trees by the applicants who were allowed to fell trees. The information that the petitioner received under RTI, also showed that the Tree Authority had overseen the replantation of 13,000 trees but has no data on the survival of the replanted trees.

Earlier this week, the High Court issued notices to the Tree Authority of North Goa and that of South Goa and asked them to file an affidavit giving the court a status report and the number of pending applications for tree felling in the state by April 28.

The PIL also states that between January 2010 and June 2019, the Tree Authority that, as mandated under the Goa Preservation of Trees Act, 1984 should have met 38 times, if it held meetings at least once every three months. However, the Tree Authority had not met even once since 2012, the petitioner contended and alleged that it had been “dormant, non-functioning and failed to discharge its duties”. The High Court has also asked the state government to inform the court whether the tree authorities are functional or not.

Between January 2010 and June 2019, 4041 applications were filed before the state forest department for felling as many as 88,978 trees. Of these 2,537 applications were allowed while 19 were rejected, the PIL states. The remaining 1,444 applications are pending.

The PIL has urged the court to restrain the authority from permitting any further felling of trees for public or private infrastructure projects except in cases in which there is grave danger to life, property or traffic. It has also asked the court to direct the state government to conduct a tree census in Goa and display the information at the Forest Department.

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