City’s Environment activists start chain fasting to protect biodiversity

Neha Basudkar
Sunday, 21 October 2018

They are opposing construction of a road at Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Pune: It is not a surprising situation but surely again a classic example of how Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) officials seem to be turning a blind eye when it comes to saving the city’s scant green lungs. This time, it is the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.

Environment activists, who have been striving hard for over five months to save the sanctuary from turning into a concrete jungle, have now gone on a chain fast to pay homage to GD Agarwal, who laid his life for the protection of river Ganga, in solidarity with the protection of trees of Aarey Colony, Goregaon, and for the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Yerawada. 

It all started when PMC proposed to construct an 800-metre internal road, which is part of the 17-km Kharadi-Shivane Road. This created an uproar amongst the environmentalists when they learnt that some 167 trees of the sanctuary will be cut for the construction of the road. The activists started growing in numbers to support the cause and the local residents had been drawing attention to the issues by conducting cleanliness drives at the park. Meanwhile, looking at the public outrage, PMC Commissioner Saurabh Rao visited the park in May to review the ground situation and gave a statement that PMC will prohibit illegal cutting of trees and ensure that the area is protected from other illegal activities.
After a spot visit to the sanctuary on Saturday, the current situation depicts that the entrance of the park, which was cleaned and cleared by the activists, has been again lying in a filthy situation. It seems that the civic officials are ignoring the activists and citizens’ plea to save the sanctuary from becoming a concrete jungle, as the PMC has put a notice on 167 trees, which are slated to be cut, and started construction of the road. 

Movement of One-Day-Chain-Fast
From October 18, on the occasion of Dussehra, a group of activists started a movement to highlight the current environmental issues around the locality, district, State, nation or around the world. Each person in a group will fast for a day from midnight to midnight and it will continue in a loop. The person will decide the conditions of fasting.

Niranjan Upasani, an activist, said, “We are trying hard to save the green cover and for this reason, we have started this movement with three causes, i.e, to pay homage to GD Agarwal who laid his life for protection of river Ganga, in solidarity with the protection of trees of Aarey Colony, Goregaon, and for Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Yerawada. My action component was ‘toxic free life’.”

Dharamraj Patil, an ornithologist and environmentalist, who kept his fast on October 19, said, “The PMC Commissioner has not kept his word. Also, we have raised suggestions and objections for which hearing is pending with the PMC Tree Authority and the civic officials have started with the road construction work.”

Satish Khot, an activist working with National Society for Clean Cities, Pune, said, “In 1987 PMC’s Development Plan (DP), a road has been mentioned. But it makes no sense in making the road just because it is mentioned in the DP, as it will kill the biodiversity.”

Finally, when we tried to contact Rao to ask about his statement on saving the sanctuary, he said that he would not like to talk over this topic and he is busy with some meetings and disconnected the phone call.

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