Walta bans illegal felling of trees

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Hyderabad: If you are planning to axe a tree in your house, it may no longer be as easy as you might be considering it to be, especially after the Lokayukta’s direction to district collectors to protect trees.

The order asks the collectors to strictly implement the Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act or Walta to regulate the exploitation and use of ground and surface water and felling of trees.

The Lokayukta had issued the order after it was found that mandal-level authorities were ineffective in looking into Walta violations. Some mandal committees were neither meeting regularly nor sending reports to district authorities resulting in non-implementation of the Act.

Lokayukta Justice B. Subhashan Reddy has directed all district collectors to issue instructions to mandal-level authorities to scrupulously follow the mandate of the Walta and the rules.

Groundwater protection measures include registration of wells, prohibition of water pumping in certain areas, permission for wells and permission for well sinking near drinking water source, over-exploited areas, protection of public drinking water sources, registration of drilling rigs, closure of wells, taking over of wells to ensure drinking water, compensation for closed wells and rainwater harvesting structures.

Surface water protective measures include optimum use, protection of lakes, ponds and tanks, ceiling on water usage and sand mining. The Act stipulates that in municipal corporations, for every 100 square metres, there should be three trees.

Violators of the Act are punishable with a fine of Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. Felling trees without prior permission shall be punishable with a fine which shall not be less than two times the value of the tree, but which may extend up to five times its value.

A sum not less than Rs 1 lakh by way of compounding of the offence shall be levied in respect of contravention of Sections related to well sinking near drinking water source, registration of drilling rigs and sand mining.

A complaint had been filed by I. Suryanarayana of Kakinada, against all mandallevel officers of Guntur, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Prakasam, Vizianagaram, and SPSR Nellore. He had sought action against tahsildars for not following the Walta provisions.

Andhra Pradesh

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