Local legislators are not in favour of the complete ban. “We are not happy with the decision. We wanted a ban on felling of native trees only. We cannot show our faces to the people now,” said a ruling party MLA on condition of anonymity.
The state government’s decision before the last general election to permit felling of this bushy wild tree, which is notorious for its uncontrolled growth, had provided employment to nearly 30,000 people who made charcoal from the trees. According to the legislators, the rural poor had seen economic prosperity for the first time in the history of Kutch.
Forest Secretary S K Nanda confirmed that the state government passed the order to ban felling of Gando Bawal a few days ago on ecological grounds.
“While a formal notification to this effect will be issued shortly, I have conveyed the government’s decision to the Kutch district collector to initiate further action in the matter,” Nanda told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
District Collector and District Magistrate Varsani said his office was yet to receive the order.
He said the move was to increase the green cover, which had depleted dangerously creating sever ecological problems, especially in Banni where trees had been felled in large numbers.
He said he had adequate machinery in the Revenue department to implement the order. “We will be strict and not allow felling of Gando Bawal any more,” he said.
After the state government’s decision to allow felling of this bushy wild tree before the last general election, charcoal had turned out to be a new industry, attracting producers from outside the state also. When this exotic tree, brought especially from Morvi to check salanity ingress and advancing Rann in Banni, started disappearing from Kutch, unscrupulous elements in the charcoal trade turned to native trees that were vital to the fragile ecology of the desert district.
Alarmed by the situation, especially after images taken by the Indian Space Research Organisation showed wide hotspot where large-scale felling of trees had taken place, the government called a meeting of all legislators of the district on April 23 to know their views before taking any decision.
The Kutch MLAs were against a total ban on felling of Gando Bawal, considering the economic aspects of the tree and its contribution to the local rural economy.
Former chief minister Suresh Mehta was also against the ban. “It would not be a right decision. It may adversely affect the economy of this district,” he had earlier told this newspaper.