June 2009

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

Citizens wrote to about a proposed road from bopodi botanical garden linked to mumbai-pune highway parallel to bhaupatil road which is sufficiently widened very recently for traffic because it was previously very narrow road for traffic, now we hear that some politician are involved in this project.

As bhau patil road is already widened sufficiently,we truly feel that this new proposed road is not at all required, because it will definately cause damage to the botanical garden.Being common citizens we are unaware of the proper channel through which we can approach the right authorities to prevent this from happening. Can you guide us in this matter.

Based on this mail, a detailed campaign was undertaken by other active groups in Pune and the work has been stalled given the illegality of the entire situation.

Based on another mail sent to the group by member Mohit Bhog, a group of NGO’s got together protest against the capture of a public playground by a builder. A meeting of the Sr.Citizens Association & Laughter Club of Wanowrie, was called and they were joined actively by the various Mohalla Committees of this area, including the National Society of Clean Cities. A strategy was planned by the core group and so far the attempts to build on this open space has been stalled. Pune Tree Watch has played an active role in supporting this campaign.

Member Shyam Srivastava discussed an idea of organizing a competition on designing tree guards. Tree Guard specifications:

1. Should be Cheap- should not cost more than 50 rupees to produce
2. Should be durable- lasting for a minimum of 10 years in exposed conditions.
3. Production should lead to minimal carbon dioxide and other emissions.
4. Production should be eco friendly
5. Minimal re-sale value. It should not be of a material which would lead people to steal it.
6. Cattle and small children proof. It should protect trees from cattle goats and similar herbivores. It should also not cause harm to these herbivores and small children.
7. If the material is persistent, then it should be recyclable. If it is not persistent , then it should be bio-degradable.
8. Should be dismantleable and reusable. In other words, if it is used for one tree, after a period of a few years, it must be possible to dismantle and re-use for another plantation.
9. Should not cause damage to the tree it is supposed to protect.

Pune Tree Watch endorsed a letter sent to Mr Kalmadi against the amendments to the RTI Act. This letter was jointly signed by other groups and organisations.

Hi, Tasneem I’m writing from Florence, Italy, I think you remember me, here is a group called Citizens for Trees except that it is in italy and as yet we do not have any regulation on tree felling (that is how I found your group,remember? looking for ideas but the name was a coincidence, I had already chosen it a long time ago!). Unfortunately we only blocked the felling for a while (using legislations on protected bird nesting), but I’m afraid in September they will begin again, now we have about a loss of 1200. Anyway, I read this interesting article about carbon sequestration, well. mine is my fear and consequent suggestion not to spread this sort of information without adding that new tree policies should be implemented while taking in due respect the older trees. My fear (actually a reality here in Italy maybe not so in your district, I do not know) administrations use this excuse whenever they want to cut down entire rows of even century old trees, even historic ones, saying that they are no longer efficient, often for making rrom to expensive apartment buildings and for speculation. We urge the planting of younger trees only after the old has come to its life completion or better yet, planting one while the other is still up and striving. Older trees, we have been told by botanists, are more efficient as filters against the tiny air polltants (dusts). I do not know if you agree, I just wanted to tell you only because this information (that younger trees work better) have given our administration the scientific tool to do whatever it wanted against the opinion of citizens, only based on the age of trees. Even though we are far, I think it would be preferable to go toward our goal in our respective countries with a common approach and sometimes things (bad things in our case) happen in some countries before others have the opportunity to see the effects of some policies, so we can send useful warning to each other. With love, pat Point well taken Pat. I had the same thought yet I think we could use this information well. All we need to do is ensure space for trees on open public spaces in thue future for the “new trees” approach. Old trees like you mention are micro-ecosystems on their own, they may not be the better carbon sinks but they perform a wider role (habitat, micro-climate, water and the like), and ensure they are spared as much as possible by changing our needs a bit, and/or changing the orientation of how our needs would look.

Thanks for writing in and I do hope you manage to save our trees in Florence still. I would believe there would be something else in hand that could be of use. Maybe some international law or an international appeal.

A citizen from Kothrud sent a mail to the group “We stay in a co-op housing society. Trees in our and adjoining apartment/society are often cut down for no apparent reason. At this very moment several trees are being cut.

The excuses offered are that branches cause damage to properly. In reality this is extremely rare. This is just used as an excuse to cut the tree completely.

I would really like to know what the law states about felling trees in private areas like this.

While I write this, several trees are being chopped and the squirrels and birds that stay in them have been rendered homeless.

Please help!

N. J. Ponda

129/22 Rohit Society, Ideal Colony, Paud Road, Poona 411029

If you would like to take this forward then can I request you to call one person from the Tree Authority – Gajabhau Tharkude 9822063144. He is from a political party but if you let him know that we have spoken and you need help he could come.Just request him to come and see the site and ask him if he could help decoding this whole process. I am not sure how permssion was given to cut the tree when there is the High court order.

Things are such a melee at the Garden department, with these new orders.

Anyway, I don’t think I should take this further as if the tree was indeed poised to topple over, then it would be wrong to blame anyone. But I really do not know if this really was the case. What I did see for sure was that a branch indeed seemed to have snapped or something… don’t know about the whole tree.

Another issue is that my parents are not at all keen to peeve off other society members who would have applied for the permission from the dept…. esp. when we can’t say with certainty that the tree was wrongly felled. If the opposing party were strangers, then it would have been a lot simpler…

Actually the person in charge of this area (whose number I’v mentioned above) claimed to have taken pictures as proof (is this a legal requirement, btw?). So maybe seeing those might have helped to throw more light on the issue. But since the guy never came (I did not follow up either), that did not happen.

Anyway, like I said, it was good to thru the sites and known the laws, so one can be better equipped if something similar happens in future.

Tasneem reported to the group about “just wanted to share with you the number of eye-witness reprts on tree felling have been pretty frequent in the past few days.

I was at the BNCA college yest, and two students shared with me how they spotted trees getting cut. One was cut, sliced, chopped and covered up in no time like there was no tree to begin with. The other said how another tree was getting cut in the dead of the night. When they saw that the girl was taking pictures they tried to justify it loud enough to be heard by saying that they are doing so as the tree could fall on their children’s head at any point.

Last night another call from Dhole Patil road on ramping felling/transplanting without permission and despite contacting Mane, there was no response. These guys continued unabashed, quite sure that the consequences would be very little or none. So I spoke with Ghorpade, who got into action and the garden dept did an investigation for the same. I was told by the complainant, that they would not cut trees again and they are now a bit wary.

On sunday, came in a case from Salisbury Park on trees being cut which was reported to the garden dept. and then there was a complaint today from Kalyaninagar. You all are anyway aware of the case in Kothrud.

Each case has it’s own take so I am not getting into that, but what is interesting is that despite so much news print on the High Court order (which I dont agree with yet..) people are doing business as usual.

There is contemplation that the new order opens the doors for under the table deals etc as people would start doing things on the sly since the process has got so badly delayed. There are also genuine cases of people who live in constant fear of trees falling down on them, and I still dont know what is the mechanism to deal with it.

Ketaki and I were informed that we were the experts to be consulted as per teh court order, but that is just not logical and I have refused to go on site visits because of this vagueness.

Thought I will update the group about this “

In continuation with the Dhanori lake case, PTW helped gain content on the EIA clearance and draft a letter that was sent by the National Society of Clean Cities to the Ministry of Environment and Forests which states that builder is deliberately concealing the presence of a large water body in the site and misleading the MoEF. As per section 8 (vi) of the Environmental Assessment Notification 2006 which we quote “Deliberately concealing and/or submisiion of 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…”. Through the letter, we have appealed to the Ministry that 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.

PTW made a presentation to the students of BNCA on the new Tree Policy that has been accepted by the PMC. The students would be helping with a review of the status and progress of the Tree Policy. This would be done by the month of November.

Two presentation on the “Trees in Pune” were made to two rotary clubs this month.

2. Official Processes

Pune Tree Watch provided inputs into the Strategic Environment Assessment process for Pune city, that is being undertaken by the PMC.

Tasneem attended two meetings on the Joint Forest Management committees this month.

3. Plantations

A number of plantation activities were initiated with the help of PTW and the initiation of members and citizens. The activity was at many times frustratingly slow as the whole idea was to do this as government and people co-operation. The PMC was many a times slow to respond and take appropriate steps to continue the work. The plantations was planned and undertaken in Wanawadi, Green belt zone in Baner, NIBM and Kondhwa Katraj Rd. More than 300 trees were planted through this process.

In the month of june and july, the group received many requests for plantation from various companies, but none of them seemed to come to fruition, mostly due to the nature of the request itself and in other cases as we were getting most of the infrastructure support from the PMC

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