Pune: The city unit of the Congress is raking up the Empress Garden issue following the clamour by environmentalists. The State government has decided to build residential quarters by acquiring 10 acres of the Empress Garden land. The Congress launched an agitation at the Empress Garden chowk on Monday against this decision.
Congress city unit chief Ramesh Bagwe said, “There are many government quarters in the city, which are in a dilapidated state. The government should have demolished them and built new quarters in their place. There is no need to give the Empress Garden land for government quarters. We are condemning this decision.”
“We will intensify the agitation, if the State government fails to withdraw the decision,” Bagwe added.
Suresh Pingale, Secretary Trustee, Empress Garden, who also participated in the agitation, said, “A few years ago, some builders had tried to grab the Empress Garden land. They did not succeed, as citizens and environmentalists had raised their voice against the plan. Now, the State government has planned to construct buildings on the 10-acre land. It is objectionable and we will not allow them to do construction on garden land.”
Meanwhile, citizens have also started a campaign against the issue. They have decided to send a petition to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to save Empress Garden. An appeal has been made to citizens to sign the petition to save the garden.
The garden is 180 years old and has rare trees on its premises. Many migratory and local birds can be spotted here. This biodiversity should be made a heritage site. The garden was originally spread over 55 acres. It now stands on 38 acres, of which the government wants to take away another 10 acres for the construction purposes.
The ‘Save Pune Hills Initiative’, one of the city-based NGOs working to protect the environment, has also sent a letter to Fadnavis and registered their protest.