A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde had set up a committee in February to evaluate the true value of a tree.
We all know that trees are priceless because they provide us with the oxygen we breathe. However, for the first time in India, guidelines on the valuation of trees has been set. A Supreme Court-appointed committee has submitted a report in this regard. According to the report submitted, a tree's monetary worth will be counted as - its age multiplied by Rs 74,500.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde had set up a committee in February to evaluate the true value of a tree, when a PIL had challenged the West Bengal government's decision to cut 356 trees to construct five railway overbridges costing Rs 500 crore. The committee comprised Soham Pandya, B K Maji, Niranjita Mitra, N K Mukarji and Sunita Narain.
The committee members in January 2020 were asked by the Bench to determine the economic value of trees, based on cost of oxygen they release, and other benefits to the environment. The five-member committee of experts added that a heritage tree with a lifespan of well over 100 years could be valued at more than Rs 1 crore. The report was 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 this, the cost of oxygen alone is Rs 45,000.
Cost of biofertilisers are worth Rs 20,000.
Adding costs of micronutrients and compost, living trees will outweigh the benefit of most of the projects they are felled for.
The committee also suggested that instead of cutting trees for highway projects, the governments should first explore alternatives such as using existing waterways and railway lines to facilitate traffic and transport infrastructure. The bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, stressed on the necessity to do away with the evaluation of trees only on the basis of their timber value and rather focus on the positive impact of trees on the environment.
The bench comprising of CJI Bobde, Justice A.S Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian said that if the apex court accepts the committee's report, the governments will go bankrupt. "The calculations need to be rationalised, only then their cost can be built into the project cost," the media quoted the bench as saying.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court has asked advocate Prashant Bhushan to give a draft note on the protocol that would be put in place for calculating the value of trees and also on the legality of the EIA. The court will take up the case after two weeks.