Senior biologist Professor Milind Watve, who recently resigned from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune, has alleged that over 500 fully grown trees on the campus were felled illegally to facilitate the construction of a road and other work on campus.
Watve tendered his resignation after he was allegedly stripped off his responsibilities as the head of the landscape committee of IISER, reportedly because he pointed out these irregularities in the ongoing works on the campus.
“While studying the landscape of IISER in great detail, I realised many things. A number of illegal and anti-environmental acts had been and were being committed on the campus. This included felling of trees without proper permission or procedure, and releasing untreated sewage despite having a sewage treatment plant,” Watve said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
A statement issued by IISER late on Wednesday claimed that the statements by Watve were “inaccurate and baseless”. “The allegations made by Watve were raised not while he was the chairperson, but after he expressed the intent to resign from the institute,” read the statement.
Speaking to Pune Newsline, Watve said, “After I assumed charge of the landscape committee in November last year, I would ask the engineering department to furnish the required documents to fell trees. They could never produce any documents.”
Watve has also gone onto state that despite bringing these irregularities to the notice of higher authorities, including IISER Director Jayant Udgaonkar, no action was taken.
The statement by IISER, however, said over 1,000 trees were recently planted on campus. Officials of IISER Pune, also denied any knowledge of tree felling. “The institute is unaware of any illegal tree felling on campus and does not release any untreated sewage,” added the statement
“ Due to complaints of improprieties against the external landscaping contractor, the committee investigating the matter recommended the termination of the current landscaping contract. It also recommended discontinuation of the consultant,” it added.
“We had undertaken a massive tree replantation drive on the campus over the last three months. Some of these trees are among the endangered species found in the Western Ghats. During the initial days, the director took notice but later did not support the cause and I was removed from the committee,” he added.
A new hostel building is being constructed on campus, and major concretisation work on internal roads, near both the main gate along Pashan Road, and another gate along Baner Road, have been going on since the beginning of the year. “Why should newer roads be built when there are existing roads leading to the same place,” asked Watve, whose resignation has not been processed yet. Any decision in this regard will be taken by the board of governors.
In his Facebook post, Watve also said that an inquiry committee was constituted to investigate irregularities in the ongoing works. “The committee appears to have tried its best but did not find any evidence and in its conclusions, did not say that I was guilty,” he stated.