NGT Restrains Pune Municipal Corporation From Tree Felling For Riverfront Project

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Pune, 31st May 2023: Until the next hearing on July 31, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to cease tree felling for the riverfront development project.

Sarang Yadwadkar and Pushkar Kulkarni, two residents of Pune, filed an application with the NGT seeking a prohibition on tree felling along the Mula, Mutha, and Mula-Mutha rivers until a fresh evaluation of the project is conducted, as per a Supreme Court order dated March 27.

The directive was issued by the western zone bench of the NGT, comprising judicial member Dinesh Kumar Singh and expert member Vijay Kulkarni. The bench noted that the PMC had responded negatively when asked if trees were going to be felled. The civic body stated that it had applied to the Maharashtra Tree Authority for permission to cut the trees, and no trees would be felled until the permission was granted.
The PMC has been given a two-week period to file its reply affidavit with the NGT.

The residents argued that the detailed project report (DPR) submitted by the civic body mentioned the careful retention of existing trees and proposed additional green areas to promote activities like boating and cycling. The master plan recognizes the significance of these structures and strives to accommodate them by modifying the embankment design accordingly. The DPR also acknowledges the abundant tree population in Pune, which continues to grow.

The existing Pune river edge is already adorned with a large number of trees, which will be integrated into the proposed riverfront development. Preserving and enhancing the city’s green heritage is of utmost importance. Tree guards will be employed to protect both existing and proposed trees in the riverfront development.

The applicants also brought to the attention of the NGT that in separate meetings with the State Environmental Impact Assessment Committee and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority in 2019, the PMC had claimed that the number of trees to be cut and planted was not applicable to the project. However, a public notice was issued by the PMC’s Tree Authority for the removal and transplantation of trees.

The riverfront project aims to develop a 44-kilometer stretch, including 22.2 kilometers of the Mula river, 10.4 kilometers of the Mutha river, and 11.8 kilometers of the Mula-Mutha river. The project is divided into multiple phases, and work has already commenced on two stretches.

Inspired by the Sabarmati riverfront development in Gujarat, the project’s foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March last year. However, it faced legal challenges, causing delays in implementation.

According to the PMC’s proposal, a total of 7,539 trees will be affected, with 3,110 being removed and 4,329 being transplanted. To compensate for the tree cutting, the PMC plans to plant 66,434 new trees.

These developments have sparked protests from residents, who organized a Chipko Andolan and marched from the Sambhaji Garden gate to the Garware bridge along the riverside road, under the banner of “Save Mula-Mutha.” They are demanding that the river be cleaned before any further development takes place.

Earlier, 11 environmental experts returned the PMC’s Paryavaran Doot environment ambassador awards, stating that they felt deceived by the administration, which had caused significant destruction of natural greenery during the implementation of the riverfront project and a proposed road on Vetal Tekdi.


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