Students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, (IIT-B) have taken it upon themselves to highlight the fast-depleting green cover in their campus and the lack of measures to tackle the menace. They have compared photographs of the campus taken in 1968 with that of 2008 and 2014 to show the loss of green cover in the 566-acre campus.
When the institute was set up on the banks of Powai Lake in the 1950s, tree cover was sparse. However, the campus turned into a haven for flora and fauna over the next few decades, as numerous trees were planted.
In 2009, a World Wildlife Fund for Nature study found the campus housed nearly 843 species of flora and fauna of native and foreign origin, including protected species.
However, with no working institute body to look after the biodiversity, coupled with the dire need to expand facilities in the campus, students said there is rampant and unnecessary tree felling. “Not only are trees cut for clearing land for buildings, they are often uprooted,” said Anshul Awasthi, a final-year student.
An article in the latest student magazine Insight has addressed the issue. The article says a newly built faculty housing with a parking space for around 100 cars was created by cutting down densely planted areas, while a new guest house has led to more than 35 trees being felled near the lakeshore.
Sreesh Venuturumilli, a student at the institute and author of the article, said multi-level parking on stilts could have saved the trees.
Recognising the potential of IIT campuses to become spots for nature conservation, the ministry of human resource development had, in 2013, recommended that all IITs set up a ‘Green Office’ to look into all environment-related activities in the campuses. However, despite a committee being formed two years ago, no meeting for a greener campus has been conducted so far, said students.
Professors said nature is paying the cost of development, which is inevitable. “As there is a continuous expansion and the campus has limited space to cater to it, some sacrifice has to be made,” said Rohit Manchanda, professor of bioscience.
Devang Khakar, IIT-B director, said he was unaware of any student activity towards a green campus and declined to comment further.