Pune: Controversy Surrounds Bullock Cart Racing Event at Mahatma Tekdi

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Kothrud, 9th February 2024: A bullock cart racing event held on the environmentally sensitive Mahatma Tekdi on Thursday has sparked outrage among citizens and regular walkers, raising concerns about the far-reaching impact on the ecosystem of the hill, designated as a Biodiversity Park (BDP) zone.

Wildlife biologist and Kothrud resident Arnav Gandhe expressed alarm over the potential repercussions on the hill’s biodiversity. He noted that the noise and commotion from the racing event could disturb the natural habitat, possibly driving away indigenous species. The trampling of flora and disruption of soil structure could have lasting effects on the hill’s delicate ecosystem.

Gandhe highlighted three critical concerns arising from the bullock cart race on the tekdi. Firstly, it questions the purpose of the BDP designation, raising doubts about its effectiveness. Secondly, the natural landscape, crucial for microhabitats, has been significantly altered. Thirdly, such events set a dangerous precedent for private landowners to exploit BDP land, leading to widespread alteration with adjacent habitats also at risk. The vehicles accessing the hill from the Vanadevi Warje side further exacerbate the situation.

Another resident pointed out that such activities contribute to soil erosion, negatively impacting biodiversity conservation efforts. The hills in the area serve as a catchment area for groundwater in Kothrud, Karvenagar, and Warje, and these activities, coupled with soil erosion, could significantly reduce the catchment area, leading to increased runoff.

Officials from the Warje ward office claimed to have blocked two entries to prevent vehicles from entering the tekdi. However, on Thursday, several tempos were observed on the premises, along with a large tent facilitating the sale of food and water. Plastic bottles were strewn across the area.

A senior official from the state animal husbandry department stated that bullock cart races can only be organized with permission from the collector’s office, and they have not received any communication indicating approval for this event. The department plans to send a letter to the Warje police station, Pune City Police, to take action against the event organizers.

Officials from the building permission department of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) mentioned that civic officials have been dispatched to the tekdi to investigate the matter. A PMC official, who visited the location on Thursday, emphasized that setting up tents and holding events in BDP zones is not allowed. The PMC will send a letter to the Warje police station, urging them not to permit such activities on the hill.