Pune: Many city environmentalists were furious over cutting down of eight trees on Ganeshkhind Road near Raj Bhavan and University Circle in the wee hours of Sunday.
Although these eight trees were among the list of 850 trees that were to be cut down for the infrastructural development in the city, the public hearing was not held and there was no announcement of the tree cutting by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which irked the environmentalists.
Sandeep Kale, Tree Committee Member of Tree Authority, PMC, said that recently the PMC Commissioner and Tree Authority Chairman Kunal Kumar was directed to take action against 25 trees in Aundh area. However, the tree cutting which took place from Chatuhshrungi Police Station to Savitribai Phule Pune University was an old proposal sanctioned in January 2017 for road widening. It was just that Kumar took action now.
Meanwhile, Kumar has signed a proposal of cutting down of 850 trees in various areas of the city for road widening, construction of Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) lanes and other infrastructural development.
According to environmentalists, these eight trees were axed in the wee hours of October 29 from 1.30 am to 5.30 am without putting up any notice regarding the cutting nor holding any public hearing.
The environmentalists said they had given a letter to the tree authority chairman in the past to conduct a public hearing of the trees to be cut when similar incidents took place on the same stretch of the road.
Environmentalist Vinod Jain received the news at 5 am of five trees being axed at the crossroad near University and three trees near Raj Bhavan.
He immediately rushed to the spot and managed to stop another tree from getting axed, he said.
Jain added, “Under the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, there should be a public hearing before cutting any tree and only if the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issues a notice to cut the trees, then only the trees should be axed.”
Vaishali Patkar, a member of Area Sabha Association of Pune (ASAP) and environmentalist, said, “Tree cutting is illegal as there was no notice put on the trees regarding the cutting. We have demanded from PMC the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the various projects that require cutting of such heritage trees. But neither the plans nor the DPRs have been shared with the citizens.”
“Since these trees are public property involving citizens, it should be made mandatory before unilaterally taking decisions. These trees have become an identity of Pune University and were home to many species of birds,” Patkar further added.