Save Taljai hills: HT investigation reveals builder’s towering plan to flatten Pune’s green cover
At Taljai hill, which falls within the city’s biodiversity park (BDP) area, a no-development zone, earth movers were excavating the hill and rock drilling activities were being carried out when HT visited the spot. The biodiversity park is spread over 100 acres and is a protected region currently under the jurisdiction of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).The park aims to protect the biodiversity near and around the area of the hill.
A real estate developer has allegedly flattened a part of the hill, located in Hingne Khurd close to Sinhagad road. The flattening of the hill is a part of the developer’s plan to create and sell plots.
Suraj Palakhe, the local builder who owns the plot, says that there is no illegal activity being carried out by his men at Taljai hill. When asked about the excavation, Palakhe said, “I am the owner of the land and hence, I am making plots here, which are for sale. I am not doing any illegal work and we have all the necessary documents.” The developer, however, failed to produce any documents.
On August 5,2015, the state government passed a much awaited decision on the biodiversity park (BDP) area reservation in Pune banning any new construction. PMC can give permission for construction of only projects including horticulture, agriculture, parks, biodiversity research centres and museums.
When contacted, officials from the collector’s office said that they are not aware of the excavation at Talaji hill. Resident collector of Pune, Rajendra Muthe, said, “It is true, no one can start any type of development activity in the BDP area. If any such activity is going on, then, we will take strict action against them. I have given directions to my officers and they will visit the spot. Then, we will take legal action.”
Activist Sarang Yadwadkar said that according to the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act, 1966, the contractor should have taken permission from the respective authority for any type of development. “If the contractor is claiming that he has permission for excavation in BDP area, then he should show it, because no authority can give permission for such type of an excavation in the BDP area.”
There is an increasing loss of green cover at Taljai hill because of illegal excavation and activist Dhananjay Shedbale, who raised the issue, alleges that it has been going on for the last three months.
“Illegal excavation of the hill needs to be stopped immediately as the present guidelines allow no developmental activity in BDP areas as the land is reserved for environmental purposes,” added Shedbale.