Former MLA’s initiative, citizen participation protects 85-acre urban reserve forest land in Pune
The conservation of an 85-acre urban reserve forest land in Tilekarnagar, survey number 47 in Kondhwa budruk is a result of citizen participation led by former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Yogesh Tilekar.
The transformation of one of the largest forest strips has been named after Dr Shree Nanasaheb Dharmadhikari and serves as home to several rare species of birds, flora, fauna and a large number of peacocks.
Currently, Tilekar has converted a five-acre area into a Smruti Van (memory garden) in the names of the deceased persons whose family members visit the spot and plant trees in the memory of their near and dear ones.
The Smruti Van has been named after Pundalik Dada Tilekar where more than 1,000 trees have been planted. Also, gym equipment and animal mannequins have been placed to attract children and forest lovers to the area.
A sum of Rs 7 crore has been spent for preservation and development of the urban forest. At his instructions, the entire 85 acres of forest land has been fenced by utilising the MLA development fund.
Yogesh Tilekar said, “The idea came to my mind when I got to know that such a large portion of forest land was lying desolate with nobody paying attention towards its upkeep. I decided to take it up as a national cause and through citizens participation prepared a detailed report for phase-wise development for the garden. We have spent around Rs 7 crore during the first phase and require another Rs 10 to Rs 12 crore for the development of the entire forest garden.”
The funds were made available by the then forest minister Sudheer Mungantiwar and the project was inaugurated by home minister Ranjeet Deshmukh. Tilekar has big plans for the conversion of major garden space into Ayurveda forest and starting tourist-centric projects like ropeways and rock-climbing which would add to revenue generation for further protection of the reserve forest.
Regarding security and further upkeep of the forest, Tilekar said, “The forest department must deploy guards and take an active interest in the protection of the national heritage. Also, citizens must be alert and ensure that vandalism and anti-forest activities must be reported to the authorities. Our aim is to make it a national success on lines with the Taljai forest garden project.”
Sanmeet Patil, a resident said “We thank the former MLA for taking an active interest in developing the forest. The current elected representatives are not paying any attention to the garden. We need more security, CCTV surveillance and strong security at the exit and entry gates and continuous patrolling in the forest area as it is surrounded by concrete jungle from all the sides.”