Felled by an incentive

 
Published: Friday 15 July 1994

-- The government of Delhi has been inadvertently encouraging the illegal felling of trees. Outdated city laws have created an anomalous situation in which there is an incentive to break the law, a recently-released report of the Comptroller and Auditor General pointed out.

In 1992-92, the prescribed penalty for illegal felling was Rs 5 to Rs 25 per tree, depending on its thickness. This rate was fixed in 1963 and has not been revised since. But the amount to be paid as compensation, when trees were cut with the government's permission, was double the penalty. However, even this compensation is much less than the Rs 100 needed to raise a plant.

Although the government has taken measures to green the city, not much progress seems to have been made. Trees can be felled in the city only if the Lt Governor considers it absolutely essential. And the forest unit, under the city's department of environment, one of the agencies responsible for developing forestry in the metropolis, must undertake tree plantation and protect forests and soil cover. However, the forestry unit's records show that in Alipur, which is one of the 7 ranges of the forest unit, 319 trees had been illegally cut in just 1 year. Besides, forest range officers often do not register cases with the police and the culprits are allowed to take away the timber with only a slap on the wrist.

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