January 2009

Pune Tree Watch, Monthly Report, January 2009
1. Alerts, Action and Campaigns
i) Cahun Road, Pune Camp

Members of PTW visited the Cahun road felling site in the Pune Cantontment Area. Sharvari and myself did a site visit and we do see that the trees atleast seven of them come in the middle of the road. The rest we have asked that they get dovetails at the side of the road.

Unlike the Pune Municipal Corporation, PCB has no specific rules or guidelines with regards to tree felling in the PCB area, apart from the small mention in the Cantonment Act, 2006. Clause no. 262, states that ‘ For Felling, lopping and trimming of trees, the board may by notice in writing, require the owner, lessee or occupier of the land to fell, lop or trim trees. The board also may cause to be lopped or trimmed any tree standing on land in the Cantonment which belongs to the government’.

This poses difficulty for citizens to participate, and uniformity for the felling of trees. In this light a letter was sent to the relevant authorities of the Pune Cantonment Board urging them for the following

1. inclusion of experts and representatives from the NGO sector to balance the composition of the Garden Committee, which was formed for the same.
2. b) PCB to streamline the process of felling and make it open to public participation where citizen participation is taken into the process

ii) Illegal Tree Felling at the Corporation School Dhole Patil

PTW was contacted by a citizen about a tree felling happening at the Municipal Corporation School, on Dhole Patil Road. The tree pruning was not according to prescribed standards. The felling was stopped with immediate effect.

iii) Right To Information

On a tip-off provided by a member of the group, PTW filed an RTI to get details and plans of proposed or sanctioned construction on the Green Belt from Rajaram to Mhatre bridge. (b) Particulars of information required :

1. List and details of plans of proposed and sanctioned construction plans submitted to the PMC having 20% FSI on the green belt area between Rajaram bridge to Mhatre bridge.
2. Under what provision have the 20%FSI proposals for IT Parks been accepted, if so.
3. What is the consequent provision in the DC rule for use of Green Belt areas.

We received the information on this but any substantial action is yet to be taken
iv) Tree felling for the Mughal Gardens

PTW received an alert of tree felling that was happening for the making of the Mughal Gardens. Ketaki and Tasneem had sought the requirement of a site visit and design review to analyse if trees do need to be cut after all. While speaking to the Garden Department (GD), Tasneem did request the Garden department to postpone it till the time that we do the site visit. The GD has said that they would stall the felling till the site visit is conducted.

v) Save Empress Garden
A letter was written by PTW to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr Ashok Chavan to protest against the alleged usurpation of the 40 acre Empress Gardens in Pune. Many other groups and citizens have written to the CM too.

The Empress Garden is ecologically and beautifully landscaped and maintained with streams, fountains, the Nana-Nani Park and a children’s playground. The Butterfly Park is almost complete. A Bonsai garden and a rose garden are in the anvil. The society itself has played a crucial role in maintaining the aesthetics and longevity of the garden. As of the moment, the plans have been stalled but there is no written communication on this yet.
2. Official Processes

i) Docket

As part of the docket facelift process that PTW has been pursuing since three years now, there was yet one more attempt to make progressive changes. The commissioner has taken interest in the matter and PTW has urged for the following

a) Please try to ensure that there is a way to have a count of trees in the docket. How many for cutting, transplanting and how many saved. It is not difficult at all if excel or access is used.

b) The docket document should be ‘sort enabled’ area wise atleast. So one additional colummn to add the ward would be absolutely great!

c) Ensure that the decisions get uploaded in the same docket in a seperate column for the garden dept documentation and are put on the website.

d)Yes to a savvy IT person in the Garden Dept.. atleast in the initial period. It would do much good.

ii) Tree Authority Meeting

The TA meeting happened wherein amongst the usual decisions that were to be taken a proposal from a couple of members to give the GD the right to fell Subabul (and one more kind if I remember!) without bringing it to the TA. Ketaki and Tasneem opposed this move, and there was no rationale given for this proposal when I questioned it either. The majority had its way though and the proposal was passed
iii) Site Visit

Tasneem conducted a road site visit at wanowrie, where some trees have to cut to make a road. It is very kuchha road and the residents came out to tell us how badly they need the road. The road is basically a small lane (10 ft) lined with small houses. They were very apprehensive about the visit and thought that Tasneem was one of the objectors.

iv) Threat

Ketaki, on a site visit in kothrud area was threatened by one corporator who went so far to say that if she was not a woman, he would cut her arms and legs. The experts on the TA namely Ketaki and Tasneem have been facing hostility. Ketaki was surrounded by a crowd, who were supporting the corporator, and the abusive and disrespectful way she was spoken to. The whole thing was perhaps triggered when she was introduced as a Tree Lover by the GD and not a member of the TA. Though eventually, all her attempts to tell them that she was a TA member and that the trees will be cut if they are dangerous, were dismissed. At one point, the corporator also said that if she is given money, she will scoot from that site!.. Another accusation that both of face many times… we both, unfortunately, seem to inherit possess all these qualities as being customary to be on the TA and be active on site visits.

The commissioner was informed about this and he has taken due action by sending a show cause notice to the corporator.

3. Plantation

A plantation drive was organized by Pune Tree Watch (PTW) in association with Horizon Search (a small social group working on the law college hill.) on January 4th 2009.

With major support from the Garden Department a total of 66 pits were dug with native saplings.

In all 25-30 people comprising members of PTW, Horizon Search, local citizens and college students participated in the drive. 40 water bottles were arranged by Horizon Search for watering the saplings. Further arrangements for watering are yet to be done and it needs to be worked on fast

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