When development work on the BRTS route at Wakhdewadi stretch started in 2004, almost 50 trees stood in the way of the road widening work. Instead of opting for the easy option — chopping them down — officials of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) transplanted them to a side of the road that stretched from Kasarwadi to Chinchwad Station.
Similarly, only two years ago, during the development of the BRTS stretch from Bhakti Shakti Chowk to Mukai Chowk, three trees were transplanted on the side of the road. In both cases, the survival rate of trees was around 95 per cent. But while PCMC officials explore the option of tree transplantation over felling, officials of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) often cut down trees for developmental projects.
“The road-widening project on University Road, where 13 trees were recently felled by the PMC, is a hurried one… the priority is on utilisation of funds, with no emphasis on saving the green cover… rather than lack of resources and expertise, it is the lack of will which is stopping PMC officials from looking at transplantation as a possible solution,” said Makarand Shende, a green activist and member of the Area Sabha Association of Pune.
On why tree transplantation isn’t favoured by the PMC, Dhananjay Shedbale, a green activist associated with organisations such as Nisarg Sevak and Jividha, and an alumni of Ecological Society, said, “The bureaucrats of PCMC are more sensitive towards maintaining green cover… PMC officials seem to be negligent towards conservation of green cover. As far as technical resources and funds are concerned, the PMC is better-equipped. However, tree transplantation should be seen as a second option. Top-most priority should be given to retaining the trees as they are.”
Currently, the stretch from Nigdi to Dehu Road is being widened so that it can be converted into a four lane road. Shedbale and other green activists have been following up with the civic authorities to save the 261 trees on the stretch and transplanting them. According to senior botanist SD Mahajan, given the cost involved for tree transplantation — nearly Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for a tree — only rare trees should be transplanted. But he emphasised that PMC authorities should plant three trees for each tree that is felled for road-widening work. “It is a rule and the PMC is aware of it, but chooses to ignore it…,” he said.
Between 2016 and 2017, Tata Motors has transplanted almost 250 trees in its premises. “These trees were in the way of the expansion of our plant. So, with permission from the PMC, we relocated them elsewhere…Thankfully, they all survived,” said Shivdarshan Ambekar, horticulture manager, Tata Motors.
In 1980s, Hindustan Organic Chemicals in Panvel had successfully transplanted 25 trees in Rasayani outside the chemical plant. Rajendra Shende, the then project manager and chairman of TERRE Policy Centre, said, “Tree transplantation should be seen as the last option. The first option should be to save the tree at any cost. The policymaker as well as society should not view trees as obstructions in urbanisation and development.”
He suggested that civic officials should dedicate a separate department for tree transplantation, which should include experts in the field as it is a highly-skilled job. Tree transplantation is not just about uprooting a tree and planting it elsewhere, said Shende. “The roots and soil of the tree should be studied beforehand. The same type of soil and nutrients should be added to the ditch where the tree is being transplanted. Later, its growth should be observed at regular intervals,” he added.
PMC: Not Possible To Use Machine For Transplanting Trees On City Roads
Facing the local residents’ ire over the felling of trees on Ganeshkhind Road to carry out road widening work, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has decided to transplant six of the 26 trees it would be uprooting.
“We have trimmed 14 of the 26 trees to be uprooted on Ganeshkhind Road… six of them would be transplanted alongside the widened road,” said Ashok Ghorpade, garden superintendent of the PMC. He said the civic administration would also look into the possibility of transplanting the remaining trees. On the technology required for transplanting trees, Ghorpade said the PMC does so manually, with the help of JCB machines.
“The PMC has made a provision of Rs 1.5 crore in the budget to purchase a machine for transplanting trees. However, there are limitations on its usage,” he said, adding that the machine can be used to uproot a tree in a vacant land. “It would not be possible to use it on city roads as there are utility services like water supply, drainage lines, electric and telephone cables laid under the road,” said Ghorpade.