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Tree authority blinks as 8 trees cut down at Pune’s Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary

Residents of Kalyani nagar highlight issue to tree authority, officer promises to investigate case

pune Updated: Jun 27, 2018 15:55 IST
Parth Welankar
Parth Welankar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary,Trees cut
A total of eight big trees have been cut at Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary by unidentified persons. (SHANKAR NARAYAN/HT PHOTO )

The civic authorities have been consistently neglecting the green belts in the city, so much so that the historic Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary in Yerawada is facing existential threat. A total of eight big trees have been cut at Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary. A total of eight big trees have been cut by unidentified persons. Also, branches of some of the other trees in the sanctuary, have also been cut.

The tree authority of the Pune Municipal Corporation(PMC) had no knowledge of the incident, until the residents of Kalyani nagar highlighted the issue.

“The cut trees were dumped below big broken cemented tiles, so that it does not draw attention. While the cause is unknown, we will be conducting an enquiry on the issue,” said Ramesh Salunkhe, tree inspector of the civic body.

Heavy price for negligence
Already affected by garbage dumping and polluted river water, the latest touble for the Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary is the unauthorised cutting of trees
What happened?
8 big trees have been cut down.
Several branches of other trees in Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Yerwada have also been cut
Residents of Kalyani nagar highlighted the issue
Promises
Ramesh Salunkhe, tree inspector of PMC for Yerawada and Kalyani nagar, has vowed to conduct an enquiry in the case, apart from ensuring that no such incident happens in future
Security guards to be placed at different areas surrounding Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary
TOTAL AREA
20 acres
SIGNIFICANCE OF DR SALIM ALI BIRD SANCTUARY
For many decades, the stretch of land along the banks of the Mula-Mutha river has been known to bird lovers as the Yerawada Birding Point. About two decades ago, it was dedicated to the great Indian ornithologist Dr Salim Ali and named after him.
In January 2014, avid naturalists and bird watchers Jyotirmayi Banerjee and Debarpan Banerjee wrote about the sorry neglect of this birding point, bringing the issue to the forefront. Their blog lists more than 40 different birds that are usually sighted at the bird park.
Due to massive garbage dumping and polluted river water, it is no longer frequented in large numbers by birds or bird watchers.
According to activists and bird watchers, groups of vagrants gamble and consume alcohol amidst the trees on a routine basis now, making the place unsafe.
"It is unfortunate that trees are being cut down due to the negligence of the tree department of Pune municipal corporation (PMC). Had the authorities been watchful after the first incident, where 500 trees were being cut by a developer, this situation might not have arrived."
- Satish Khot, former president of the National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC, Pune chapter).
"The PMC should wake up at least now. Two incidents of same nature has happened in less than six months. If this continues, very soon there won’t be anything left of the sanctuary in the city."
- Sameer Nikam, a resident of the Kalyani nagar area

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“It is unfortunate that such tree cutting is happening in the city. Henceforth, we will station security guards at different areas around the Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary and will ensure that no such incidents happen in future. We are thankful to the residents of Kalyani nagar for their vigilance,” he added.

He also said that he would prepare a detailed report about the incident and submit it to his higher authorities.Earlier, alleged illegal cutting of 500 trees at the natural bird sanctuary on the Mula-Mutha river bank in Yerawada was highlighted and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had served a notice to the Panchshil Group for the same.

Though Pune Municipal Corporation had assured to take legal action against the Panchshil Group for the alleged illegal razing of 500 trees, no case has been registered as yet, even after four months.

Vasant Patil, tree officer of PMC, had said then, “Having found some irregularities in our routine inquiry, we have served a legal notice to the Panchshil Group under Section 8 of Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975.We have given 15 days’ time to the Panchshil Group for presenting their case. Failing to produce a considerable case, we will register a complaint against the realty group.”

A member of PMC tree authority committee alleged that Panchshil Group has violated the environmental norms by cutting down more than 500 trees out of standing 592 tree of various species in the property owned by the group, without seeking permission from the authorities.

Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in its heydays used to feature at least 30 different species of birds but massive garbage dumping and polluted river water has taken a toll on it and it is no longer frequented by birds.

Lackadaisical attitude of authorities irks residents

The civic authorities have been speaking about the need to save the environment, on various occasions. Unfortunately, they hardly seem to walk the talk.

The nearly-defunct condition of Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary makes it evident that the authorities are not paying attention to save one of the most important green belts of the city.

In less than four months, two incidents of illegal cutting of trees in the sanctuary, have emerged. The Pune Municipal Corporation officials, however, have not pursued the case and this has irked the residents of Kalyani nagar.

Satish Khot, former president of the National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC, Pune chapter) accused the civic authorionly ties of not being interested in preserving the environment.

He said, “It is unfortunate that trees are being cut down due to the negligence of the tree department of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). Had the authorities been watchful after the first incident, where 500 trees were cut by a developer, this situation might not have arrived.”

He added, “The situation is the same across the city, not in the bird sanctuary. There are many places where trees have been cut and the authorities have not acted at all. There should be an end to this.”

Preserving the nature is the need of an hour, said Khot.

Sameer Nikam, a resident of the Kalyani Nagar area said, “The Pune Municipal Corporation should wake up at least now. Two incidents of same nature have happened in less than six months. If this continues, very soon there won’t be anything left of the sanctuary in the city. ” Dharmaraj Patil, an ornithologist had earlier said, “It is sad to see that this once beautiful bird sanctuary has come to such a defunct state. It was home to various species of birds and a place where one could see as many as 25 species of butterflies, as well. However, negligence over the years has left the sanctuary in a poor condition.”

First Published: Jun 27, 2018 15:54 IST