A group of activists sat through the night, guarding the trees in front of Kasturba Gandhi Vasahat on Aundh Road, Saturday.
The activists said they were forced to take the extreme step, as they had “lost faith in the authorities after four trees were felled on Friday in the wee hours”, for Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) road-widening project — from Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) to Bremen Chowk.
Even during the day, some members were seen guarding the trees.
“We will continue to protest by guarding trees unless the authorities come to us or set up a meeting to hear our concerns. We are not against development of the city. Our fight is against unplanned development at the cost of environment. Our fight is against their negligence to tree plantation and failure to implement the Tree Act,” said Makarand Shende, one of the activists.
Shende is one of the members of Area Sabha Association of Pune (ASAP), which has been following with the PMC from August last year for implementation of the Tree Act. Other protesting ASAP members include Vinod Jain, Swapna Narayan, Ravindra Sinha, Anupam Saraf, Akhilesh Bhandari and Satya.
The members are being backed by the Bhosale Nagar Mohalla Committee, Aundh Mohalla Committee and Baner-Pashan Mohalla Committee. Residents of Kasturba slum have also been offering the protesting activists tea and water throughout the night.
“We haven’t been briefed on how and why the authorities reached the figure of 35 trees, wherein they plan to cut 20 trees, replant six trees and retain nine trees falling between the stretch. All these trees are more than 100 years old,” said Shende.
Preeti Sinha from PMC garden department said, “Whatever is being done is with due permission. These trees are coming between road-widening. As per the requirement, 20 trees need to be cut and six need to be replanted.”
ASAP co-ordinator Narayan said in a meeting held between PMC commissioner and Tree Authority chairman Kunal Kumar and ASAP members on March 16, the members had demanded that scientific-based statistical analysis on long-term social and environmental impact of every development project should be made public before starting any work.
“We were also assured that the Tree Act will be implemented with immediate effect,” added Narayan.
“In December first week last year, the PMC commissioner had assured that 1,000 trees will be planted on the Devnadi riverbed within a week. It’s been four months and they have barely planted 250 trees. Why is the administration failing to complete such a simple task? If they would have succeeded in planting trees across the city, this situation wouldn’t have arrived. We will not allow this haphazard cutting of trees and will continue to protest. If needed, we will also take legal action,” said Shende.