Pune: Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary Faces Encroachment and Debris Dumping, Culprits Liable for Rs. 5,000 Penalty

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Yerwada, 3rd April 2024: The tranquil Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, nestled along the serene banks of the Mula-Mutha River, faces a grave threat as numerous trucks and tractors, asserting ownership claims, continue to dump debris and waste within its confines. Reports have emerged over the past several months detailing the indiscriminate dumping of debris by thousands of trucks, posing a significant threat to the sanctuary’s ecosystem.

In response, Somnath Bankar, Assistant Commissioner of the Nagar Road (Vadgaon Sheri) Zonal Office, recently levied a fine of Rs 5,000 in an attempt to curb this illegal activity.

Bankar has further indicated his intention to pursue additional legal measures upon receipt of the report from the legislative committee of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The report highlights concerns over the unsanitary conditions prevailing in the city and the unlawful occupation of public spaces. A political leader, self-proclaimed as a ‘social worker’, has laid claim to the land along the Mutha riverbank, leading to a concerning surge in illegal dumping activities. The sanctuary has witnessed the continuous dumping of various materials, including cement blocks, broken furniture, soil, stones, bricks, glass, and plastic, by a multitude of trucks and tractors.

The relentless dumping has resulted in a significant increase in ground level by 15 to 20 feet, narrowing drains due to debris accumulation. The sanctuary, envisioned as a haven for indigenous and migratory avian species, is now under threat. Established three decades ago as a testament to the legacy of Dr. Salim Ali, the sanctuary flourished as a habitat for butterflies, insects, and diverse bird species. However, encroachments and illegal activities now jeopardize its existence.

Dr. Farokh Wadia’s philanthropic donation of 25 acres of land to the Forest Department aimed to protect and nurture the sanctuary. However, a political figure has allegedly encroached upon the sanctuary under the guise of ‘Vatan’ rights, despite the abolishment of such lands in 1952. Exploiting the legal ambiguity, businesses have unlawfully occupied the area, exacerbating environmental degradation and habitat destruction.

Despite efforts to address the issue, including fines and legal interventions, the illegal dumping persists, posing a threat of flooding to the Kalyaninagar area during the monsoon season. Individuals found littering in the riverbed and sanctuary now face fines, and the PMC’s legal committee has been consulted for further guidance.

The individual claiming ownership has initiated unconventional activities on the premises, including buffalo and goat-rearing ventures, alongside temple construction and commercial ventures. Moreover, a peculiar ritual of feeding crows and pigeons has been introduced under the guise of social service, further complicating the situation.