PMC Faces Scrutiny in Pune Civil Court as Citizens Challenge Tree Felling Violations

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Pune, 29th November 2023: The second hearing on tree felling issues became a battleground for the interpretation of laws seeking interim relief for plaintiffs Ameet Gurucharan Singh, Hema Chari Madabhushi, Sathya Natarajan, The Secular Community of India, and their advocate Rajendra Kumar. They presented nine specific instances of law violations, urging an immediate halt to all tree felling activities.

Representing PMC, Adv Bothare neither admitted nor denied the nine violations but convinced the Pune Civil Court that citizens could seek relief, including compensation, from the National Green Tribunal, High Court, or Supreme Court. The court disagreed with the plaintiffs, asserting that the civil court lacks jurisdiction and powers to halt unauthorized orders under civil law. The matter, now without an injunction, is set for the next hearing on December 12.

Plaintiff Ameet Singh expressed concerns about Pune’s environmental challenges, highlighting the city’s high electricity consumption, numerous vehicles, and ongoing construction. Despite significant investments, Pune struggles with sewage treatment and resorts to landfill dumping, resulting in 2.6 crores tons of annual emissions and pollution. Singh questioned the accountability of authorities, emphasizing that trees are the proven mitigation method for pollution. Instead of preserving Pune’s tree cover, PMC is allegedly destroying it under development projects like road widening and rampant construction.

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Concerned citizen Gangotri Chanda raised issues with the Tree Act, noting that transplantation, a condition for development-related tree removal, often fails due to root complexities. Chanda criticized PMC’s inability to provide transplantation success rate data and questioned the ecological impact of replacing fully grown trees with saplings. The citizen also raised skepticism about road widening, linking it to the automobile industry’s interests.

Adv Sonia Harshit, representing plaintiff 4, summarized the second hearing’s tough battle over deviations and non-transparency in PMC’s procedures. The court heard about nine violations based on the Tree Act, exposing PMC’s silence on the matter. The plaintiffs highlighted indiscriminate tree-felling, with a staggering 264,799 trees allegedly destroyed under the banner of infrastructure development. They emphasized the need for compliance with standards, proper appointments, and scientific approaches to protect the environment.

The plaintiffs expressed a willingness to assist PMC in complying with standards and urged collaboration for environmental preservation. The court commended their efforts to protect heritage trees and compensate Puneites for potential losses. The legal battle continues, highlighting the delicate balance between development and environmental conservation in Pune.