As many as 700 trees are likely to be cut down during the construction of the two Metro corridors in Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The move has raised the hackles of environmentalists and other citizens who hope that Metro officials will do everything possible to avoid the loss of trees. Apparently, gauging the public mood, the Maha Metro authorities on Sunday said they will make all efforts to ensure that the minimum number of trees are chopped down along the two corridors.
“As per the Detailed project report (DPR) for the two corridors, an estimated number of 685 trees are planned to be felled on both the Metro routes,” said Brijesh Dixit, managing director of Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (Maha Metro). Dixit said that the actual position on the number of trees to be felled will be clear in the last stage of finalising the design of the metro stations. “We think the number could be much lesser than the initial estimation,” he said.
The two routes are being constructed under Phase I, which covers 31.5 km – 16.58 km from Pimpri to Swargate and 14.92 km from Vanaz to Ramwadi.
The construction of the Metro from Pimpri-Chinchwad has already started and the famed “Green Necklace” of the twin industrial town seems to be on the chopping block. The “Green Necklace”, which has come to fruition in a period of 30 years, starts from Nigdi and takes a right turn at Nashik Phata to stretch up to Bhosari and beyond.
Environmentalists said “Green Necklace” — comprising the maximum number of “Rain Trees” — has kept the spiralling industrial pollution in check or else the residents would have faced severe health problems. “The fully grown trees that you see today were planted during the Harnam Singh tenure in the early 1980s to nip the industrial pollution in the bud. The citizens and civic body have preserved them with great effort. They cannot be felled overnight for development’s sake,” said D G Baliga, who had taken active part during the tree plantation three decades back.
Debunking the very thought of felling trees, Vikas Patil, who heads the Environment Conservation Association (ECA), said, “Before the work on the Pimpri route started, they should have thought about the hundreds of trees lining the highway. The could have first planned five trees for each tree to be felled. Even now they can start doing it, but they should not say that they will plant the trees after the work is completed five years later.”
Demanding that Maha Metro should undertake “tree transplantation” instead of chopping them down, Patil said, “Both Maha Metro and civic officials should think of the damage felling tree will cause to the environment before going on the chopping mission.” The ECA has sent letters to both PCMC chief and Maha Metro, urging them to do a rethink on the plan to fell trees. Prashant Inamdar of Pedestrians First said, “As per the initial DPR, the plan was to fell 685 trees. Now, the figure has gone up. First, they had planned the Metro along the service road and now it has shifted to the centre of the road in Pimpri. The realignment will only affect more number of trees on both the Metro routes.”
However, both Maha Metro and the ruling BJP denied that a large number of trees will be felled, especially in Pimpri areas. “Since the alignment has shifted to the centre of the road, we think fewer trees would be affected as most trees are along the highway stretch,” said BJP general secretary Sarang Kamtekar. Maha Metro MD Brijesh Dixit insisted that lesser number of trees will be felled on both the corridors. “We will make all efforts to ensure that minimum number of trees are affected. Even those which we plan to remove will be transplanted at other locations. We are, in fact, opposed to the very idea of felling trees,” he said. Pimpri-Chinchwad Mayor Nitin Kalje, however, said he was not sure whether trees would be chopped for the project.