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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Citizens cry foul as Pune’s NIBM forest left ‘unreserved’ by forest department

Residents allege that the government officials plan to use the forest land for commercial purposes.

pune Updated: Nov 07, 2017 15:08 IST
Nadeem Inamdar
Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Hardly any fencing is left around the reserved forest land at Mohammadwadi, near NIBM, rendering it a hangout spot for hooligans and miscreants. Residents allege that due to this, encroachments have also increased.
Hardly any fencing is left around the reserved forest land at Mohammadwadi, near NIBM, rendering it a hangout spot for hooligans and miscreants. Residents allege that due to this, encroachments have also increased. (Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)

The 200 acres of prime reserve forest area, locally known as NIBM forest, is facing complete neglect from the forest department, leading to its misuse, according to local residents. Citizens and civil society members including various local NGOs and environmentalists are crying foul that the forest area has not been protected by the department despite the mandate by the government.

Anand Van Mitra Mandal (AVMM) and Wanowrie Residents Forum (WRF), along with other NGO’s and environmentalists, have now taken up the cudgels against the forest department asking it to take proper care of the precious reserved forest area spread over 200 acres of prime urban land near NIBM. The forest is spread across Undri, NIBM, Kondhwa Khurd and Mohammadwadi and offers a panoramic view to its visitors.

AVMM president Anand Kumar, who has taken up the matter directly with the forest office, said that he was shocked at the brazen manner in which the department was handling an important reserved forest area cover spread over almost 200 acres of land.

“We are ready to take over the land from the forest department and make it a model forest for the citizens, just like what we did for the 43 acres of forest land (Anand Van). It is the national duty of the government and also the forest department to save the forest. Encroachments are escalating, hooligans and miscreants are spoiling the green cover and eternal threat of land sharks and non-cooperative forest department is leading to the destruction of the important national heritage site of Pune,” he said.

Maithili Manakwad, secretary, Wanowrie Residents Forum, said that the forest department, despite being paid by the government for the upkeep and protection of the reserved forest, were failing in their duty. “It is a complete dereliction of duty by government officials who have failed miserably in protecting the rich forest area. The forest is a national asset and the strict forest laws must be used against offenders so that we are able to preserve it for our future generations,” he added.

A few environmental activists have sent a petition to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking strict implementation of the Supreme Court appointed CEC report against the powerful and influential people behind the deforestation of the reserved forest land.

NGOs demand conservation of reserved forest land

NIBM road residents and local NGOs have demanded the protection of 200 acres of reserved forest land citing an imminent threat of encroachment, deforestation, breach of security wall , illegal tree felling and lack of security guards and effective action against the suspects under the stringent sections of the Forest Act.

The residents, who have been successful in saving 43 acres of prime forest land (Anand Van) for the future generation, have now set their sights on saving the huge forest area which is getting engulfed fast by rapid ‘concretisation’ from all the sides.

The citizens maintained that the forest department was not protecting the forest in accordance with the laid down rules and regulations of the National Forest Act. They further added that the forest security was never seen protecting the sensitive biodiversity.

“Besides, a fencing must be erected around the entire portion of the reserve forest to avoid miscreants from axing fully grown trees and tampering with the sensitive ecology. There have been recent incidents where hooligans were found drinking alcohol and anti-social elements were found taking refuge in the forest area to avoid the law,” said Anand Kumar, president of Anand Van Mitral Mandal, an NGO which played a key role in conserving the 43 acres of prime land of reserved forest area, which otherwise would have been gobbled up by land sharks.

Despite repeated attempts, chief conservator of forests Vivek Khandekar, could not be reached for comments.

Kumar said that the area is a biological hotspot which needs to be conserved for the future generation. “ There is a complete neglect by the forest authorities to keep the area safe from land sharks, garbage and waste disposal. We have requested the forest department and even the Union forest ministry to make the area free of encroachments and convert it into one of the biggest urban forest parks for the citizens of Pune. Unfortunately, the authorities are not responding to our pleas,” he said.

Altaf Shaikh, member of Kondhwa Citizens Forum said that the government must stop all the construction work with immediate effect as it is destroying the forests and entire green ecosystem of the city. “ The forest plays a key role in maintaining the environment of Pune. PMC officials and environment ministry officials have colluded together and are destroying human life by promoting such ‘concretisation’ of the area,” he said.

First Published: Nov 07, 2017 15:07 IST

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