April 2009

Pune Tree Watch, Monthly Report, April 2009
1. Alerts, Action and Campaigns

i) Request from Sugar Grove US.

PTW received a request for help from Sugar Grove US. They say that a local developer has said they were redesigning the road at one intersection. While they are amenable to the idea that the intersection be redesigned to make it safer, this would be done by felling trees according to a new plan. The county showed a design a couple of years ago that would take easement in the front and side of the property. While that is never a happy scenario for an owner but the design was accepted. The old farm house is close to the road. Now this week the county and the village had a meeting and stated they would be cutting down the trees on the property line at Bliss Rd. They cannot see how removing the beautiful old trees or the not beautiful trees will make the road safer. There are trees further down the road and they are not being removed.

PTW responded with the following points
a) It would be useful to see the legality of the road (under which law etc), a suitable analysis of the traffic which would help review if the widening in needed or not. Univ/college students and some other organisations can help. If there is space for cyclist and pedestrians so the trees can come within those lines and not get cut or stressed in the bargain.

b) Associate with local groups

c) Look at the local, state and federal legislations for environment protection and trees. Is there a process that needs to be followed etc.

d)If there are trees above 100 years old or so then it would be worth looking at saving them from a heritage angle.

e)Start spreading the word of dissent and get more people to help. There are many tree lovers across, and you will be surprised to see them in your neighbourhood(unless you have tried that already). Use visual media to the best of your ability. People don’t know what they are to lose till they see it.

ii) Surat Tree Watch

Surat Tree Watch was officially launched in the state of Gujrat. STW has been modeled on the lines of PTW and they have in the past used our help and advice on saving trees in Surat. To give Surat some structure for felling trees, STW has finalized some points of action and deliberation

1. Unofficial Tree Authority under the discretionary powers and chairmanship of the Commissioner.

2. Addition of higher level staff in Garden Department

3. Special dedicated resources at STW – UTA for taking the plantation and transplantation projects.

4. No touching to any tree without the permission of the committee proposed
5. Extra budget for tree transplant needed in the compulsory tree cutting in major projects that are already started, if possible for example in Udhna Magdalla road 172 trees case – try maximum to save trees, if cant then compulsory transplant. – No killing.

6. Try and officiate the tree authority in the powers maximum in the scope of the standing committee of SMC in the coming tenure of 5 years.

7. Try to take our to the secretariat level, to make up an act for all Municipalities in Gujarat.

All this to be announced on the launch of STW – UTA on 5th June.

iii) Tree felling at Pune-Saswad Road

Member Avish Kadam reported the tree felling on the Pune-saswad road. PTW contacted the Garden Department (GD) who said that the felling has been stopped. We reiterated our request to members to keep the numbers of the GD handy.
iv)Tree felling at Kendriya Vihar Complex ,Kharghar , Navi Mumbai
Two citizens from Mumbai – Richa Hushing and Rrivu Laha a team of independent filmmakers wrote to the group seeking help. In Kendriya Vihar Complex in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai where there are huge society gardens having numerous old and healthy trees, there has been indiscriminate felling of about a dozen or more fully grown and healthy trees.

Mr. Pavnekar, a resident of Kendriya Vihar was supervising the tree felling. Mr. Pavnekar paid no heed when these two citizens objected to this indiscriminate felling of trees, They started video documenting the cut trees and the acts of felling which made Mr. Pavnekar turn violent and he attacked them and broke their camera. He abused them verbally , physically, and made racial, communal comments accusing the two citizens to be Bangladeshis encroaching into the city.

They lodged a complaint at the local police station who asked them to get a medical certificate. While they had some footage on the cut trees and the abusive behavior of Mr. Pavnekar they requested PTW support to spread the word around and intervene in the situation with immediate action.
PTW responded to the request and the following were contacted :
a) Dr Nilesh Baxi – a Tree Authority member at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation
b)Local media.
c) Ajay Marathe, a member of PTW in Navi Mumbai to help.
d)Local police and explained to the Tree Act and handed them a copy of the same. The police said that they would file an FIR but also suggested that the issue be settled amicably, and in case they are unable to do so then he would put in a formal complaint.
e)The Tree Officer of the area
Interestingly, the complainants who leased the apartment were being asked to vacate. Yet Mr. Pavnekar rendered an apology and committed to replace the damaged camera, and plant trees. The incident was also reported in some of the papers. They also received a number of calls from other citizens who expressed solidarity.

v) Wild fires spotted at Bhor (Varandha) ghat

A member was recently traveling through Bhor (Varandha) ghat reported on the huge areas in the middle of the ghat has been under wild fires. The member has notified two forest check posts on both sides of the ghat but the guards there seemed to be unaware of any fire. He was also informed that if it was private land which had caught fire the forest department cannot do anything.

vi) PTW provided necessary contact details and directions to solve the following issues

1) A hill which was infested with termites at Warje , Kothrud

2) Road widening work started by PMC in Viman Nagar where alert citizen was concerned about the excavation work for the road, where these trees may also get cut.

3)Citizens complained of a silver oak tree being cut by resident of Cosmos building on Boat Club Road

2. Official Processes

i)Docket

A meeting with the Chief Information Officer of PMC Mr. Rajendra Erande, was held at the PMC. Also present were Mr. Jagzap, Tree Officer, Vishawanath, IT personnel and we were later joined by Yadav, who is the clerk at the GD, Alok from PTW and Rohan from Kalpavriksh.

There is a preliminary list for
a) making the docket more user friendly with a sort option area/ward wise
b) making it available on time
c) also enabling extrapolations like tree felling counts etc.
d) translation to another language if possible

The translation would be on hold till we don’t find suitable language translation software. But besides that each point was discussed in great detail and mostly about the processes followed and what the possible hitches are.

So the above three will be worked towards within a period of two months. And then we can take it from there for further improvisations like adding the decisions of the docket on the sites and the status of the site visits if and when conducted by the Tree Authority. They are also in the process of designing an e-application process for the Garden dept, which looks good. We did mention about the objections bit and to create that space. From what we saw, that application process looked pretty good. We did point out the presence of a similar effort by virtue of the Garden dept website http://www.punecorporation.org/gardens/index.aspx and it was flagged that it could perhaps be incorporated within this existing programme or site.

Yadav has stated that the lack of machinery, one personnel and the internet connection makes it difficult to make the docket more efficient. He said that the GD needs 2 computers, internet, and one data entry operator. The Commissioner has issued as order to make the necessary arrangements.

ii)Dhanori Lake

The National Society of Clean Cities had raised the issue of Environment Clearance with the Ministry of Environment and Forest. A meeting and public hearing was held where the officials visited the site and also met the stakeholders. PTW was invited for this meeting.

Further to this, PTW raised the issue during the meeting for a detailed study of Form 1 and 1A be for any lacunae with the site conditions. One of the members of NSCC, Pune had under RTI obtained information on the Environmental Clearance including Form 1 & 1A.

PTW studied the information provided by the builder and noted that it is misleading and does not match the site conditions. From a study of the document it can be seen that the builder is deliberately concealing the truth and misleading the MoEF. As per section 8 (vi) of the Environmental Assessment Notification 2006 which we quote “Deliberately concealing and/or submission of false or misleading information or data which is material to screening or scoping or appraisal or decision on the application shall make the application liable for rejection, and cancellation of a prior environmental clearance granted on that basis…”

This is a clear case for cancellation of the environmental clearance granted to the said project.. MoEF should immediately withdraw the clearance and stop the destruction of Dhanori Lake..

3. Plantations

i) Plantation Programme

PTW would try to organise plantation programmes with interested citizens through the next months.

A meeting with Mr. Khaire was to be followed by planning a larger meeting soon; so as to request all people/groups/organisations interested in plantation activities to send the following details

a) Name of the person

b) Name of the organisation (if applicable)

c) Contact details (mobile/tel/email)

d) Area for plantation preferred

e) Time commitment (few hours on a daily/weekly basis for x months/years)

f) Details of plantation activities, if already undertaken and resources and help required if any.

If plantation activities were already initiated and would need more help then also details to be sent.

This plan will evolve in this period and we are hoping with consistent inputs and participation we will be able to get a good programme in place. We are counting on the PMC to help as much as possible.

ii) Tree lines on Ganeshkhind road to be planted

PTW wrote to the Garden department urging that the tree lines on Ganeshkhind road be planted. A site inspection was done whereby it was noted that the tree lines are inconsistent and some of them have cable wires etc in them. There are some spaces however that the plantation can begin but it is dumped with rubble. Some places will not have tree lines at all, which is ok, given the constraints of the area.

PTW also met with the contractor and the person-in-charge Mr. Khandve ; both committed that they would clear the spaces where the tree lines can actually be functional. Mr Ghorpade of the Garden Dept. was also requested to look into this and arrange to begin work asap. Incase the needful is not done, then PTW will be compelled to do a press release for the same.

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