Pune professor resigns over illegal felling of trees in college
A 61-year-old professor has resigned from the government-run Indian Institute of Social Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, to protest “anti-environmental” acts like the indiscriminate felling of trees and releasing untreated sewage on campus.
Professor Milind Watve, whose laboratory has been working on biodiversity conservation for over a decade, alleged that around 500 trees in the IISER campus have been illegally chopped in the last two years in the same of development.
“It is ironic that my lab carries out biodiversity, ecology and conservation research, but can’t save the trees in my vicinity,” said Watve, who submitted his letter of resignation on December 5 and is waiting for it to be accepted by the institute.
However, IISER has denied Watve’s allegations in a press note issued on Wednesday. “IISER Pune is committed to promoting the green cover on the campus. The Institute is unaware of any illegal tree felling on campus and does not release any untreated sewage,” said the press note. IISER claims to have planted nearly 1,000 trees on campus in the past year.
In December 2017, Watve was appointed to chair the campus’ landscape committee. “While studying the landscape of IISER in greater detail, I started seeing things differently and realizing many things. A number of illegal and anti-environmental acts had been and were being committed on the campus, including tree felling without proper permission procedure, releasing untreated sewage in spite of having a sewage treatment plant,” Watve said.
Watve says he wrote four letters to the director, pointing out irregularities, but received no response. He was subsequently removed from the landscape committee. Watve plans to register a complaint with the municipal corporation’s tree authority. “This is a matter of principle and my struggle is with the system. I am not personally against anyone and have not made any personal accusations,” he said.
In its press note, IISER refuted Watve’s allegations. “The landscape committee was constituted in November 2017 with Prof. Watve as the chairperson with the goal of increasing the vegetation cover on the IISER Pune campus, and maintaining and protecting the existing green cover. The allegations made by Watve were raised, not while he was the chairperson, but after he expressed the intent to resign from the Institute,” it said.