Chandigarh admin will study green cover to avoid accidents

Chandigarh administration has told Punjab and Haryana high court that it will undertake scientific study regarding entomology, plant pathology, rotation cycle of tree species in the city for better management of urban forestry.

The move will enable the administration to take timely decisions regarding the removal of dangerous trees and thereby ensure the safety of life and property in the city, the administration told the High Court. According to the State of India’s Forest Report (ISFR), Chandigarh’s green coverage has increased from 46.25% in 2019 to 50.05% in 2021.

The decision has been forwarded during the hearing of a public interest litigation filed by city attorney Kunal Mulwani after the Carmel Convent School tree accident. On July 8, one student died and 19 others were injured at the Sector 9 school when a heritage peepal tree fell on them. A guard, seriously injured, remains hospitalized.

In his PIL, Mulwani had asked for instructions to ensure the ‘safety of life and property of the public’ and for an investigation to be carried out by a High Court judge within a limited time to ascertain responsibility.

Mulwani said after the hearing, UT was obligated to reveal who was responsible for the tragic incident. “However, the affidavit regarding maintenance and the interview is silent and only in one place mentions that a notice will be issued in this regard,” he said, adding that the court was not satisfied and had requested a “proper affidavit”. A detailed order is awaited.

UT told the court that a High Court judge was investigating the incident. Crews have been formed to identify and remove dangerous and dead trees across the city. Himalayan Forest Research Institute (HFRI), Dehradun has reviewed all heritage trees and a report is awaited from them. UT also told the court that the existing procedure for issuing penalties for dead tree removal has been revised to shorten the time for issuing penalties. He said that since 2018, 1,241 dead and dry trees have been felled and 1,831 verdant trees that posed a risk have been felled.

Although UT is silent on this issue, the MC in its affidavit stated that the departments and institutions in whose premises the heritage trees are located will be responsible for their protection and preservation in coordination with the Department of Forestry and wildlife and these trees cannot be cut without prior approval.

Major decisions

1. In-depth study of the urban forest in the city

2. Investigate the accident at the Carmel convent entrusted to the judge (retired) Jitendra Chauhan

3. Panel set up to shorten the time for granting authorizations to cut down trees

4. Panel to adjudicate complaints within one month

5. Financial assistance from 20 lakh to the deceased girl’s family, 10 lakh to seriously injured and 1 lakh to those who suffered minor injuries

6. All 31 heritage trees reviewed by HFRI team, report awaited.

7. So far, 173 dead and dry trees, 338 green trees have been felled

Denise W. Whigham