200 trees burnt down in Pune’s Warje forest

DCF, Pune, said that slum dwellers who were evicted from reserved forest land were behind the incident.

pune Updated: Nov 24, 2017 15:19 IST
Nadeem Inamdar
Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,warje,reserved forest area
The 80-acre forest borders the spot where the forest department had carried out a massive anti-encroachment drive against illegal slums a few days ago.(HT Photo)

As many as 200 trees spread over a five-acre reserved forest garden plot in Warje Malwadi had to face the brunt of unidentified miscreants who set fire to the trees on November 5.

Residents of the area have alleged negligence on the part of the forest department and termed their inaction as negligent and added that they had a lack of interest in saving the green cover of the area.

The residents further maintained that the matter was brushed under the carpet by the forest department and it was only after the residents met with local MLA Bhimrao Tapkir, that the issue was raised at the highest level.

The forest park is spread over 80 acres of reserved forest land and is the brainchild of union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar. The citizens had been planting trees in the memory of their beloved family members who had passed away and also in the name of prominent people who have contributed to the society for the past two years.

Tapkir, after receiving the information, rushed to the spot with the citizens, mostly morning walkers, and former corporators Kiran Bartakke, Sachin More and Vasant Deshmukh. They carried out an inspection of the affected area. The team found that slum dwellers were partying at these areas while some anti-social elements could be seen entering the forest area by jumping over the walls to pee in the forest from Ramnagar –Khanvasti slums.

Tapkir said that the forest department was to be blamed for the inaction and indifferent attitude towards forest conservation. “There is only one garden labourer who looks after the place and in his absence, the miscreants took advantage of the situation. If the forest department and its security force had carried out surveillance of the area, then the tree burning incidents could have been avoided,” he added.

Tapkir said that he will discuss the issue with forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and also ask the forest department officials to send their ‘good morning squad’ to crackdown on the revelers. Deputy conservator of forests (DCF) Rangnath Naikade said that slum dwellers who were evicted from the reserve forest land were behind the tree burning incident.

“The slum dwellers are not afraid of the law and are backed by politicians. The tree burning incident is a warning to the forest department to stop their anti-encroachment drive against them,” he said adding that a meeting of all the public representatives have been called to discuss and come up with a permanent solution to the problem.

Environmental activists alleged that rapid urbanisation of the city, rising land prices and lack of professionalism amongst the forest department as well as rampant corruption in their ranks was making the task of forest protection and conservation tough in the present and the future.

First Published: Nov 24, 2017 15:17 IST