As the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) in Pune continues to face questions over its “missing” green cover, a scientist who resigned from the institute over the issue now plans to approach the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
Senior biologist Milind Watve, who headed the landscape committee at IISER, had stepped down in December last year over the alleged mismanagement of about 500 fully-grown trees. He had claimed that some of the trees on campus, including a few belonging to an endangered species, had been felled illegally before he took charge of the committee in 2017.
Watve, who also resigned from all other positions at IISER, claimed that the institute authorities had ignored the issue when it was brought to their attention. He had even furnished satellite images of the green cover taken before, according to him, the large-scale felling was carried out for which due permissions were not taken. Concrete roads were laid on the land after the trees were removed.
“In its response to an RTI plea on the issue, the IISER stated that it doesn’t have any official records about the trees on its campus. The presence of trees, as evidently seen in the satellite images, was not acknowledged by the institute. It is disappointing to note that a science institution is spewing false information in this regard,” Watve told The Indian Express.
The biologist, who had headed the landscape committee in 2017 – 2018, said the illegal tree felling was carried out before his tenure. Some trees that belonged to an endangered species found along the Western Ghats were felled in the process, claimed Watve.
He added, “The information furnished under RTI does not mention anything about the trees that were felled. Now, the matter will be taken up with the Tree Authority of the PMC, whose permission is mandatory for cutting down trees.”
Earlier, the IISER administration had maintained that Watve’s allegations were baseless and no tree felling was ever carried out on campus. In its latest statement, the institute said it was planning to carry out a tree census. “IISER, Pune, is committed to increasing the tree cover on the campus in a sustainable manner. As part of ongoing efforts, the institute will be planting the next batch of trees during the upcoming monsoon season. Simultaneously, efforts are also on to survey and have a census of the existing tree cover on the campus in order to create and maintain a record of the same,” read the statement.