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OVERVIEW

  • A Supreme Court appointed committee submitted in a report on Thursday declaring a tree’s monetary value to its age multiplied by Rs. 74,500 per year.
  • A bench headed by CJI S.A. Bobde had appointed a committee in February to evaluate the true value of a tree when a PIL had challenged the West Bengal government’s decision to chop down 356 trees to construct 5 railway overbridges, costing about Rs. 500 crores.
  • The committee comprised of Soham Pandya (secretary and executive director at the Centre of Science for Villages), B.K. Maji (assistant chief engineer, ROB unit, West Bengal), Niranjita Mitra (division forest officer, North 24 Parganas), N.K. Mukerji (managing director, Tiger Environment Centre), and Sunita Narain (director, Centre for Science & Environment). 

EVALUATION OF TREES 

  • The bench had insisted the committee members in January 2020 to determine the economic value of trees based on the cost of oxygen they release, along with other benefits they provide to the environment. The report was originally filed in February last year but made public on Wednesday.
  • As per the report, a tree is worth Rs. 74,500 a year, out of which the cost of oxygen alone amounts to Rs. 45,000, followed by the cost of bio-fertilisers worth Rs. 20,000. Upon adding costs of micronutrients and compost, living trees would usually outweigh the benefit of most of the projects they are felled for.
  • The five-member committee additionally observed that a heritage tree with a lifespan of over 100 years could be valued at more than Rs. 1 crore. Observing West Bengal government’s plea to cut 356 trees, including heritage trees, the committee evaluated its worth to up to Rs. 220 crores.
  • The committee suggested that the government should first explore alternatives such as existing and railway lines to facilitate traffic and transport, instead of felling trees for highway projects. In case the trees must be removed, the committee also suggested that they should firstly be relocated by using modern technology.
  • It also that adding that five saplings be planted in lieu of one tree is not a fair compensation, as a 100-year-old tree cannot be equated with a few fresh saplings. 

CONCLUSION

  • The Supreme Court so far has not accepted the report yet, and has sought responses from the central government, West Bengal government, and an NGO involved in the case, stating that adhering to the committee’s recommendations may ‘make every government go bankrupt.’
  • However, commending the committee’s efforts, the bench was inclined towards laying certain new guidelines for all future projects requiring felling of trees.

 WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS REGARDING THIS REPORT PRESENTED BY THE COMMITTEE? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

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