All eyes on Pune’s Panchshil Group as 500 trees cut ‘without permission’
Alleged illegal razing of 500 trees at the natural bird sanctuary on the Mula-Mutha river bank in Yerawada has highlighted the state of its neglect by the concerned civic authorities. The bird sanctuary was dedicated to ornithologist Dr Salim Ali nearly two decades ago. Manoj Pachpute, member of the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) tree authority committee (TAC) on Thursday alleged that Panchshil Group has violated norms by razing more than 500 trees out of 592 tree of various species in the property owned by the group, without seeking any permission from the concerned authorities.
The area, where construction is currently taking place, was previously earmarked as reserved land under the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in the 1987 Development Plan (DP) of the Pune Municipal Corporation. However, the state government recently changed the reservation and the land was converted into a residential zone in the new DP. Following changes in the DP, city builder Atul Chordia, chairman of Panchshil Group, is conducting construction activities at the plot located on the bank of the Mula-Mutha river behind Kalyaninagar, said Pachpute.
Alleging that the Panchshil group already knew that modifications in the DP will be brought out, Dhananjay Jadhav, another member of PMC’s TAC, said, “Panchshil Group razed trees without having permission to actually cut them.”
Chordia denied allegations saying everything is being done as per norms. “Its not true that trees have been cut. My plot is two acres and the reservation on it was vacated as per Supreme Court order. The order copy can be made available” said Chordia.
Accepting neglect meted out by TAC at the time when the trees were cut down, Pachpute said, “An official survey which was carried out nine months earlier clearly states that there were a total of 592 trees in the property owned by the Panchshil Group. However during the course of construction, over 500 trees were razed and only 20-25 trees now remain.The process of cutting down trees was started by the developer just when modifications in the DP were being considered.”
Pachpute and Jadhav have now submitted their report about the “illegal” cutting of trees to the secretary of the tree authority department, Dayanand Ghadge. When contacted, Ghadge said, “We have received the report submitted by our members. In addition, I have already forwarded it to the concerned tree officer.”
Vasant Patil, tree officer of PMC, said, “We will follow the routine process of enquiry. Initially, we will act by verifying the report submitted by Manoj Satpute and Dhananjay Jadhav. If the claims made by them are true, then, accordingly, the PMC will take very strict action against the Panchshil group.”
Once popular among birdwatchers within and outside Pune as the ‘Yerawada Birding Point,’ Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in its heydays used to feature at least 30 different species of bird. However, due to massive garbage dumping and polluted river water, now it is no longer frequented in large numbers by birds or bird watchers.