While green activists sat through the night in front of the Kasturba Vasahat on Aundh Road to protest against the cutting of trees by the Pune Municipal Corporation for road-widening project, just a few hundred metres away from them, nine more trees were felled in front of the Chaturshrungi Police Station by the PMC Garden Department in the darkness around 4.30 am on Monday. Though the PMC has been maintaining that the action has been taken after procuring the required permission, the environment activists have been alleging that it’s illegal.
On Friday, four trees were felled by the PMC, which sparked the protest. “The death of these full-grown 100-plus-year-old heritage trees is the sole responsibility of the Tree Authority chairman (Kunal Kumar). The work of the Tree Authority is to ensure that Pune’s green cover is maintained and increased, and not to destroy and reduce it. It’s common sense that uprooting a 100-year-old tree and planting one or even 10 trees in its place is not going to serve the purpose of providing shade, water retention and carbon sequestration. By the time the saplings grow, can they guarantee that the number of vehicles will reduce? Trees are natural oxygen cylinders and balance the ecosystem,” said Makarand Shende, one of the activists and a member of Pune’s Area Sabha Association. The activists plan to protest in front of the PMC building on Tuesday and demand resignation of PMC Commissioner Kunal Kumar.
MP and advocate Vandana Chavan has strongly condemned the action of tree felling and has demanded action against the officers who “granted permission in a suspicious manner for cutting the trees” on Pune University Road. She expressed support towards environment- friendly institutions and green activists. Explaining why the trees were cut during the wee hours, Preeti Sinha from PMC Garden Department said, “It is mainly done to avoid heavy traffic situation so that the commuters don’t get hassled.” The trees that are being cut, she said, are coming between road-widening project from Savitribai Phule Pune University to Bremen Chowk. Thus, 20 trees need to be cut on the stretch while six will be replanted.