Tree felling on Aundh-Ravet road

Date: 3rd Nov 2009

TO,

Mr Ashish Sharma,

The Municipal Commissioner,  and Chairman

Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation,  and Tree Authority

SUB:  Highlighting concerns and seeking redressal measures for the high scale tree felling for the Aundh Ravet road.

Dear Ashish Sharma,

We are writing  to you as Pune Tree Watch,  a citizens support and action group working to protect the environment and help the government in this activity as well. We mostly work in the Pune Municipal Corporation with occasional intervention within the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.

We were distraught to know the sheer proportion of tree felling that has been undertaken for the Aundh Ravet road works and while our mission is to save trees wherever possible, we also understand that there would be felling required to service the growing population and their needs. Yet having said that,  we still strongly believe that some amount of checks and balances need to be maintained at the same time.

Through this letter we would represent some of the information procured during a detailed investigation by Intelligent Pune, along with an earnest request for information so that we are in the know of what is happening, and could help the PCMC in it’s  work.

a)     Approximately 3000 trees have been felled so far, in the bulk of the felling of 2900, no public notice was given, as the process was followed as per the norms of the Defence. Against this the PCMC is to plant 9300 trees, could you please let us know the area and location when the plantation will indeed happen and when would the work start?.

b)     Requesting information on the status of the road, if this is as per the development plan. Also if there is a traffic analysis for the same. We have been told that there is currently no need for widening given the current use, but would like to get a confirmation and details from you on the same.

c)     Not all trees were marked to reflect public notice, or we believe neither there has been an invitation to people to object to the tree felling. This, by the way is clearly stated in the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975.

d)     The approach of most if not all road work is also to remove what is in the way.  The group is aware that within the PCMC at certain roads where trees could be saved, they have been. But this approach is not uniform enough and sometimes also set in strict lines.

We wanted to know if the possibility of some design changes ever looked into to save the trees? Design is a crucial intervention, and the role of an active civil society with technical leaning can be of immense use. Within the PMC, there have been many suggestions incorporated where trees have been saved and design changes made.  Could some trees if not completely obstructing the course, stay on the tracks marked for footpaths and cycle tracks for e.g?. We would look forward to your response on this.

e)     Many trees are bird and other animal habitats,  has this ever been looked into? In the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 the term ‘hunting’ under Section 2 covers poisoning or an attempt to do so, as well as damaging or disturbing the eggs or nests of birds clearly prohibits the hunting of any of the wild animals mentioned in Schedule I, II, III and IV. And Schedule IV covers mongooses, ducks and flamingos. This extends to the destruction of nests as a consequence of tree felling, and other important roosting sites. Has the forest department been informed? If yes, then what has been their response. If not, why were they not contacted .

f)      For the amount of trees that are to be cut, a small yet honest impact assessment could be calculated. There could have been some limited parameters for the same which could include potential increase in micro-climate, potential loss of pollution treatment, oxygen, water recharge etc.   This could certainly be done with some external assistance.

Cities are touted to be major players in their role to improve the environment situation.  In the case of the Aundh Ravet road, most of the felling has been undertaken already. But there is still one stretch where approximately 550 trees can be analysed to SAVE and be kept where they are. It would be good if that option can still be looked at by you.

Most of the suggestions made above would require some amount of work, energy and coordination. But all talk on environment protection will manifest in the real sense only when such coordination and work actually happens.  We need to also remember that citizens are major stakeholders in the whole structure of the cities. Their health and wellbeing is intricately linked to that of the cityscape, and the trees are an essential element for a healthy cityscape.

We look forward to your response.

Thanking you.

Madhavi Kolte and Partha Biswas

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