Pune: Bombay High Court raps PMC for illegal tree felling on Ganeshkhind road

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Pune, 12th October 2023: NGO Parisar along with economist Ameet Singh and civic activist Hema Chari had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court to stop the cutting of 192 trees on Ganeshkhind road. The stretch of the road from the SPPU gate until Sancheti is currently being widened from 36 meters to 45 meters.

The PIL has informed that permission for the tree cutting was given in violation of the provisions of the Maharashtra Tree Act. The Road Department applied for permission to cut 105 trees and transplant 87 on 21st August 2023. The PMC issued a public notice calling for objections until 18th August, but in a shocking move the PMC Commissioner Vikram Kumar, who is also the PMC Tree Authority, sanctioned the felling of the trees on the 18th itself, without considering any of the objections raised, in clear violation of the Maharashtra Tree Act provisions and earlier High Court judgments regarding the same.

Taking strong exception to the high handed and cavalier attitude of the PMC the bench hearing the PIL, headed by the Hon’ble Chief Justice and Justice Arif Doctor, stayed any further cutting of trees and instructed that the orders be conveyed to the Commissioner immediately. The PMC will now have to re-issue the notice and re-hear the objections.

Ameet Singh, an economist & one of the petitioners, welcomed the temporary victory, and hoped that better sense would now prevail in the PMC which has been acting in an arbitrary manner. “Rampant tree cutting is happening all over the city in complete violation of the law. PMC has become a conveyor belt for chopping trees. They’re chopping thousands of trees every month. In a public appeal he requested all aware citizenry to join hands in the effort to save our tree cover. Please download the gps camera software. Take photos of trees being chopped wherever you see them & tag all of us. We need evidence of PMC’s so called “development” model to stop their rampant tree felling. We are glad that the Hon’ble Court has recognized the issue and given a rap on the PMC’s knuckles”.

Hema Chari, also a petitioner, called into question the hurried manner in which the road widening was happening. “With the Metro, what is the need for the road to be widened to 45 metres, that too without the provision of decent footpaths or cycle tracks. It will only lead to more traffic, more emissions and pollution. Cutting the trees will have a double impact on pollution”.

As per the statement in the petition, IRC standards for Pedestrians and Cycle Tracks, a 6.5 meter footpath with a clear 2 meter walking zone and a 2.2 meter cycle track is needed to be provided on a 45 meter road. The PMC’s own Comprehensive Bicycle Plan, approved by the General Body in 2017, calls for a cycle track on Ganeshkhind road.

Ranjit Gadgil, Program Director of Parisar said, “we have asked for the design of the road, which should be as per the mandatory IRC Guidelines and the city’s own Urban Street Design Guidelines, but have been told that only a 2.5 meter footpath will be provided. We have raised these issues in the High Court and hope that PMC will now follow these standards. If they do, hardly any trees will be affected, as they can be accommodated in the design. Otherwise we will approach the Court again”.